Firing by Italian crew error of judgement: Coast Guard

Firing by Italian crew error of judgement: Coast Guard

Firing by Italian crew error of judgement: Coast Guard

The firing by crew of the Italian merchant vessel that left two Indian fishermen dead was an ''error of judgement'', the Coast Guard today said.

The vessel, Enrica Lexie, had not reported the incident. It was the coastal police at Neendakara in Kollam district which reported the incident to the Coast Guard and search operations were launched, Inspector General S P S Basra, Regional Commander of Coast Guard Region (West), told reporters here.

The vessel was in the Indian Exclusive Zone when the incident occurred on Wednesday, he said.

"It was an error of judgement on the part of the vessel", he said, adding, firing on unarmed fishermen was not correct.

"They (Italian vessel) had taken some time to accept the case. FIR has been registered and police was investigating the case," he said when asked about the reported delay in taking action against the erring vessel.

On the explanation by the Italian vessel that they had opened fire suspecting the fishermen to be pirates, he said, "Any incident of piracy has to be immediately reported to the Coast Guard. They have not done it. They informed over two and a half hours later", Basra said.

The Mercantile Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) has done a commendable job, he said.

The Italian ship has stated that they had sighted a "suspicious" boat off Alapuzha on February 15 at about 1600 hours at 2.8 nautical miles closing in.

The boat was "warned" flashing search lights and displaying weapons but it continued the chase and closed in up to 100 metres. The security team of the ship sighted six persons and fired warning shots, it stated.

The crew informed the owners and sent Ship Security Alert System. The master sounded alarm and the boat aborted the chase, it was further stated.

Basra said the Italian ship's version was that after the master sounded alarm, the fishing boat aborted the chase. Italian warship 'Grecale' contacted the vessel. By 16.30 hours the situation was under control and at about 17.00 hours the alert was called off.

During preliminary interrogation, the vessel confirmed presence of six armed Italian Navy Guards on its board, the Coast Guard said.

Coastguard said the vessel was brought to Kochi anchorage on February 15 at about 22.36 hours and a team consisting of Indian Navy, Coast Guard and police interrogated crew members. A team of Enforcement Directorate had also boarded the vessel.