(Updates with comment from Italian ambassador in third paragraph.)
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Armed guards aboard an Italian crude oil tanker killed two fishermen they mistakenly suspected of being pirates in waters off the south Indian state of Kerala.
The tanker M.V. Enrica Lexie, en route to Egypt from Singapore, was escorted to the nearby port of Kochi by the Indian Coast Guard, which is questioning the crew, according to an e-mailed statement from the country’s Directorate General of Shipping.
Italy’s Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte told reporters in New Delhi today that the crew of the ship acted in self-defense after the fishing vessel failed to stop. The tanker’s crew “followed international protocol as it was approached by a vessel, which did not stop,” he said in televised comments after a meeting at India’s Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. “They fired warning shots, not targeting the vessel.”
Maritime piracy costs the global economy an estimated $7 billion to $12 billion annually, according to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization. Attacks in the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and off the Somali coast increased fivefold in the past five years to a record 236, the London- based International Maritime Bureau said.
About 26 percent of the ships that travel through the Indian Ocean report having armed guards on board, compared with 10 percent a year ago, according to the European naval force patrolling the region. An estimated 40,000 ships cross the ocean annually, according to Harrie Harrison, a spokesman for the group.
--Editors: Abhay Singh, Jay Shankar
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