Mumbai: Indian Navy's involvement in anti-piracy operations has grown steadily over the years, while the Naval force has also increased its focus on coastal security, a top official said on Friday.

"A total of 1,870 merchant ships of various nationalities have been safely escorted by Indian Navy since 2008 in the Gulf of Aden," Western Naval Command Chief Vice- Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi said.

Twenty-seven Indian naval ships have been deployed for anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, he said at a press conference on board `INS Viraat' at Naval Dockyard here.

Asserting that no Indian flag merchant ship was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden when under escort by the Navy, the Vice-Admiral said they have prevented 39 active piracy attempts on the merchant vessels of different nations.

He revealed that 73 fishermen had been released from captivity of the sea brigands. "As many as 120 pirates had been apprehended and are in our jails, while 73 fishermen, who were made hostage by the pirates, have been released."

Vice Admiral Joshi, who was accompanied by Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan and Director General Naval Project (Mumbai), Vice-Admiral Raman Prabhat, also spoke on coastal security, which assumed special significance after the sea-borne terror attack in Mumbai in November 2008.

"Over the past three years, the Western Naval Command has ontinuously heightened its focus on coastal security. We have conducted around 19 coastal security operations and exercises over the past year," he added.

The Navy has undertaken various initiatives to strengthen coastal vigilance, the officer said.

"A dedicated data collection drive to map various coastal villages, fishing harbours, jetties and landing points has been undertaken."

Vice-Admiral Joshi expressed confidence that with their ongoing initiatives such as installation of coastal radar stations, transponders on fishing vessels, issuance of ID cards to fishermen, marine security would receive a further fillip.

In 2009, 135 piracy attempts were made out of which 52 actually succeeded, while the figures for 2010 were 125 and 49, respectively. In 2011, 116 piracy attempts had been made till now of which only 25 have succeeded, he said.

(Agencies)