New Delhi: A total of 121 ships were hijacked in the international waters in the last two years of which two incidents were reported off the Lakshadweep coast this year and 350 crew members were taken captive by pirates, Lok Sabha was informed.

“As per International Maritime Bureau, during 2009 to June 30 this year the total number of ships hijacked is 121. The number of crew who were taken captive is 350 in the current year," Defence Minister A K Antony said in a written reply on Monday.

On piracy attempts near Lakshadweep Island, he said, "Two incidents were reported off Lakshdweep in 2011. Indian Navy and Coast Guards intercepted the two vessels, which were hijacked Thai vessels. 43 pirates of Thai and Myanmarese origin were captured and handed over to Mumbai police."

On efforts by the Indian Navy to control piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the Minister said, "Government has deployed one Indian Naval warship in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy patrols since October 2008 and more than 1,700 ships have been escorted."

The presence of Indian Navy in the area is to protect our sea borne trade and instill confidence in the sea faring community, he said.

The Minister informed the House that a coordinated operation was launched by Navy and Coast Guard for preventing piracy off the Lakshadweep islands. "The operation included enhanced surveillance and patrol by surface and air units," he said.

"Indian Navy has substantially increased its anti-piracy deployment in East Arabian Sea since November 2010. The result of these deployments was that by end April 2011 the threat of piracy attacks was substantially reduced in this area and there were nil hijacking East of 65 degree and East Longitude since February 2011," Antony said. On whether the states with maritime boundaries have been accorded the same status as that of states with international borders, he said, "The international border clearly defines the territorial limits and sovereignty of a country over its territory.

"But the maritime boundary delineates the limits of the maritime zones between the adjacent nations subject to internationally recognised rights of innocent passage and freedom upon the high seas, in accordance with United Nations Conference on the Laws of Seas (UNCLOS)."

Antony told Parliament that Indian Navy has been carrying out joint patrolling of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius. Informing the House on INS Godavari's stand-off with PNS Babur during an anti-piracy patrol, he said India has lodged a protest with Pakistan government through the High Commission here against the violation of relevant regulations of navigational safety by the Pakistani naval ship.

"While carrying out anti-piracy patrol, INS Godavari on coming close to MV Suez, which had earlier been hijacked, tried to establish communication to ascertain safety of crew," the Defence Minister said.

"But PNS Babur closed INS Godavari at high speed from astern and carried out a manoeuvre in gross violation of relevant regulations on navigational safety and in the process touched Godavari, marginally damaging the extended safety net on the helicopter deck," Antony said.

(Agencies)