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Indian Navy Rescues Hijacked Bulgarian Ship

On March 16, 2024, the Indian Navy rescued the Bulgarian-owned bulk carrier, MV Ruen, off the coast of the Indian Ocean. The vessel had been hijacked by Somali pirates in 2023. The recapture of the vessel and the rescue of the crew members ended the three-month-long takeover. The successful efforts of the Indian forces drew praise from the Bulgarian government and resulted in a warm exchange of appreciation between government officials of India and Bulgaria.

Note of Thanks

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev wrote on social media platform X, “My sincere gratitude to PM @narendramodi for the brave action of Indian Navy rescuing the hijacked Bulgarian ship “Ruen” and its crew, including 7 Bulgarian citizens.”

Mariya Gabriel, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the efforts of the Indian Navy. She wrote on X, “I express my gratitude to the Indian navy for the successful operation to rescue the hijacked vessel Ruen & its crew members, including 7 BG nationals. Thank you for support & great effort. We continue to work together to protect lives of the crew.”

The Bulgarian shipping company, Navibulgar also called the ship’s rescue “a major success not only for us, but for the entire global maritime community.  The resolution of this case proves that the security of commercial shipping will not be compromised.”

The Bulgarian foreign ministry now wishes for the speedy return of the rescued crew members.

India’s Warm Response

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi tweeted. “Appreciate your message President @PresidentOfBg. We are happy that 7 Bulgarian nationals are safe and will be returning home soon. India is committed to protecting freedom of navigation and combating piracy and terrorism in the Indian Ocean region.”

India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, acknowledged the note of gratitude from Bulgaria and responded: “that’s what friends are for”. With such a response, Dr. Jaishankar reaffirmed India’s commitment to establishing world peace through coordinated efforts on a multilateral scale.

Note by the Indian Armed Forces

The Indian Air Force (IAF) conducted the rescue operation under Operation Sankalp. Commenting on the effort, the Indian Air Force posted on X, “In a remarkable display of Jointness & Integration, an IAF C-17 aircraft executed a precision Airborne Drop of two Combat Rubberised Raiding Craft (CRRC) boats, along with Indian Navy MARCOS in the Arabian Sea in support of ongoing anti-piracy Op Sankalp.”

Elaborating on the procedure followed, the IAF added, “Flying for almost 10 hrs to an area 2600 kms off the Indian Coast, the Op was carried out to rescue crew of bulk carrier vessel MV Ruen. The ship was hijacked by Somali pirates near Yemeni island of Socotra recently. Working seamlessly with @indiannavy, the mission was successful with all the 17 crew on-board recovered safely,”

The Indian Navy further elaborated on the joint efforts: “INS Kolkata, a mission deployed in the Arabian Sea, through the sustained high tempo of operations, has thwarted the designs of the Somali pirates to hijack ships transiting through the region by intercepting the pirate ship MV Ruen, on March 16. The merchant vessel had been hijacked in December 2023 and was under the control of the Somalian Pirates till now.”

It explained that “The vessel opened fire on the warship, which is taking actions [following] international law, in self-defence and to counter piracy, with minimal force necessary to neutralise the pirates’ threat to shipping and seafarers.” Furthermore, the Indian warship “in the last 40 hours, through concerted actions successfully cornered and coerced all 35 Pirates to surrender and ensured safe evacuation of 17 crew members,” the Navy added.

In 2023, Somali pirates captured the MV Ruen nearly 380 nautical miles east of the Yemeni island of Socotra. The Indian Navy has  kept track of the vessel since then. The pirates had abducted 17 crew members and kept them in the city of Bosaso, Somalia. Seven of the 17 members were Bulgarian, nine were Burmese, and one was an Angolan national. The Indian Navy rescued the ship and the crew about 1,400 nautical miles, or 2,600 km, off the Indian Ocean coast. None of the crew members were injured. The latest rescue is part of the Indian Navy’s recent anti-piracy efforts in international waters.