Yacht owned by Australian with AK-47s on board drifts to Maharashtra coast from Oman; no terror link found yet
Mumbai: A 16-metre-long yacht with three AK-47 rifles on board and owned by an Australian woman was found off the Raigad coast near Mumbai on Thursday causing a scare, though officials said no terror angle has come to light yet.
The discovery of the weapons on the vessel created a buzz as it came ahead of Dahi Handi and Ganesh festivals, but Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said as of now no terror connection has been found.
A life boat from the yacht was also found on the coast of Bharadkhol in Raigad district, an official said.
Fadnavis, who also holds the Home portfolio, informed the state Assembly that the vessel owner was an Australian woman whose husband was its captain.
The yacht was found in a damaged condition off the coast of Harihareshwar-Shrivardhan in Raigad district Thursday morning, Fadnavis informed the House.
The name of the vessel is Lady Han and it is owned by Hana Lordorgan, an Australian woman, he said.
The three assault rifles, some rounds of ammunition and also documents were found on the yacht, Fadnavis added.
The woman's husband James Hobert was the captain of the vessel which was going to Europe from Muscat. Around 10 am on June 26, 2022, the yacht's engine failed and the sailors called for help," the deputy CM said.
A Korean warship rescued those on board and handed them over to Oman authorities, he said. The vessel could not be towed as the sea was rough, he added.
The Indian Coast Guard said the boat is stranded on the Harihareshwar coast due to the sea undercurrent. Both local police and anti-terrorist squad are investigating and all the police units have been ordered to be alert in view of upcoming festivals, he said.
The Coast Guard and central agencies were in constant touch with the state authorities, he added.
"As of now, there is no terror angle. But investigation is going on. We can't rule out any angle as of now. I am just sharing primary information, he added.
The yacht, which is four metres wide, had drifted due to inclement weather and the Australian couple abandoned it after engine trouble, he added.
Prima facie, there is no terror angle, but it is unclear why it was carrying arms, the deputy CM said after Raigad legislator Aditi Tatkare sought a probe into the issue.
Some locals spotted the yacht near Shrivardhan, more than 190 km from Mumbai, and alerted security agencies, officials said earlier in the day.
A Coast Guard official said there was no apparent security threat.
"It is a UK-registered yacht which was sailing from Oman to Europe. It had given a distress call and people onboard were rescued by ships in the vicinity of Muscat on June 26," the official said.
The official said the weapons found on board the yacht were procured from a Dubai-based Privately Contracted Armed Maritime Security (PCAMS) company.
"It is a UK registered yacht which was sailing from Oman to Europe. It had given a distress call and people onboard were rescued by ships in the vicinity of Muscat on June 26," the official said.
Since a yacht moves slowly, it is permitted to carry small weapons, the official added.
When the people onboard abandoned the boat, they did not carry the weapons with them. When we contacted the arms vendor (PCAMS), we were told that the serial numbers of the weapons found onboard match with the ones from their inventory, the official said.
The Neptune Maritime Security Limited, which offers security services to shipping, oil, and gas industries, released a statement after a box carrying the company's logo was found in the yacht. The box contained the three AK-47 rifles and ammunition.
The company said it provided private security on the vessel in June this year.
The yacht was damaged during a monsoon in the Arabian Sea, causing the Captain to declare an emergency. While the crew was rescued, the yacht was unable to be salvaged due to the extreme weather conditions," it said.
Earlier this morning, the company was made aware that the vessel, which was presumed sunk, had washed up on Indian shores. It is working with the owner of the vessel and the Indian and UK authorities to determine the official recovery procedures of the vessel and controlled items," the statement read.