Origin of arms-laden mystery yacht found off seacoast in Maharashtra yet to be determined

According to sources in Maharashtra home department, the boat was en route from Muscat to Europe when on June 26, 2022, its engine failed. Sailors aboard it had called for help and were rescued

The boat that came ashore in Raigad district
The boat that came ashore in Raigad district
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NHS Bureau

Memories of 1992-93 Mumbai serial blasts came alive among security forces in the country after a 16-metre long yacht, named Lady Yan, was found abandoned and drifting off the Harihareshwar coast of Raigad district in the Konkan region of Maharashtra with arms and ammunition aboard on Thursday.

It was one of the beaches in this very region that had been used by terrorists led by notorious don Dawood Ibrahim to deliver RDX explosives that were eventually used in the serial blasts of Mumbai in 1993.

The cache of arms had been escorted to the city in 1993 by corrupt Customs officers who thought it was mere contraband that was being smuggled in. They were later dismissed from service.

Aboard Lady Yan were three AK-series rifles and several rounds of ammunition. Initial reports suggest that the yacht belongs to Australian national Hannah Lordorgan, whose husband James Hobart is the captain of the boat.

According to sources in the Maharashtra home department, the boat was en route from Muscat to Europe when on June 26, 2022, its engine failed at around 10 AM and the sailors called for help the same day at 1 PM.

A Korean warship rescued the sailors from the boat and handed them over to Oman authorities. Lady Yan could not be towed as the sea was rough.

Clearly, the sailors did not throw the weapons overboard, hoping for their recovery at a later date.

As per information received from the Indian Coast Guard, the boat got stranded on Harihareshwar coast due to under-currents in the sea.

However, both the local police and the anti-terrorist squad are investigating the incident and all the police units have been ordered to be on high alert in view of the upcoming festivals. The Indian Coast Guard and central agencies are in constant touch and further investigations are being carried out.

A team of the Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad led by its chief Vineet Agarwal reached Alibaug. A bomb squad has also been rushed to the scene.

According to sources in the Defence Ministry, security has been tightened on the coast and the area has been placed on high alert.

A serving Indian Navy officer said, “It is not entirely uncommon for vessels that sail in the Somali waters to have security personnel who carry arms to ward off pirates. However, only a thorough probe will tell us what has happened in the case of Lady Yan. It is strange that the owner claims to have intimated Indian authorities by email about his yacht being adrift while the Navy has denied it received any such intimation.”

Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash has said that there were maritime security companies available for hire to shipping companies for security purposes. "These security personnel are retired from the armed forces and trained in using weapons. They are authorised only to protect the vessels in the international waters. Once the ship or yacht is in territorial waters, they leave for the shore in separate vessels and deposit their weapons on shore through a special arrangement. It is possible that this could be the case here."

However, authorities are investigating if all procedures were followed as weapons, while legal for security purposes in international waters, cannot be carried into territorial waters of any nation.

The yacht is registered in the United Kingdom and bears a sticker of 'Neptune Maritime Security', which is a security firm providing armed services to shipping and oil companies, sources said.

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