NEW DELHI: Terming the killing of two innocent Indian fishermen by Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie “unfortunate”, India on Thursday summoned the Italian envoy to lodge its protest against the incident. Shocked Indian authorities feel the merchant vessel did not follow the Best Management Practices for action to be taken in the face of an imminent pirate attack.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) summoned Italian Ambassador Giacomo Safelic di Montefort. MEA Secretary (west) M Ganapathi asked the Ambassador to ensure that the merchant vessel’s Captain cooperates with the Indian officials investigating the incident. “The first step according to the international guidelines is to communicate. But the UK MTO (Maritime Trade Operations), the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard — no body — received any communication from the cargo ship,” an official said.
The incident did not happen in Indian territorial waters (extending up to 12 nautical miles from the coast), but in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ — that is up to 200 nautical miles from the coastline — off Kochi on Wednesday.
Indian authorities are also questioning the Italian ship’s claim that the fishermen died in retaliatory fire. “First of all, whenever there is a piracy attempt, after alerting the emergency communication room, the ship is supposed to first deter by water jets, firing in air, then injuring them if required and not killing them.”
“The merchant vessel seems to be relatively a new ship and so it can easily do a 14-15 nautical miles speed to evade the pirates. Moreover, the fishermen’s boat was idling when the Italian tanker was passing by,” the official said.