Coast Guard: Diary of Events

This document will analyse "ANNEX 1" attached to Indian documents filed at the International Tribunal for the Law Of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg on 6 August, 2015

   Indian Coast Guard, diary of events, 2012

The diary of events made by the Indian Coast Guard (hereinafter ICG) concerning the “shooting from oil tanker Enrica Lexie” will be analyzed from the moment of the incident to the arrival of the Italian ship to the Kochi port where it was forced to drop anchor. I.e. all the phases of the incident before the Indian authorities burst on the ship.

The diary of events
15 Februry 2012: The diary of events.

The chronological reconstruction ICG made in ANNEX 1 gives a dramatic picture of events:

  • by considering as true the version where Enrica Lexie left without launching the alert, thus not fulfilling its obligations: the "escape";

  • by exalting the technological – investigative efficiency which resulted in identifying the offenders: the “chase”;

  • finally, by describing the efficiency of aero-naval operation without which they could not succeed in bringing the offenders to justice: the “capture”.
The aeronaval research

Escape, chase and capture. Three parts of a tale I will demonstrate to be false. Once again, a prejudice from Coast Guard, which through a series of omissions reported facts very different from what happened, has to be outlined.

The Escape

As for the report sent by the Enrica Lexie Captain, Umberto Vitelli (later confirmed to investigators: See Annex 27), he launched the SSAS Alert immediately after they heard shots and he had ordered the crew to take shelter: "...THIS IS NOT A DRILL, AND EVERYONE PROCEED TO ENGINE CONTROL ROOM WE ARE UNDER PIRATE ATTACK..."

The Grecale Italian warship
The distance from the Enrica Lexie of the Italian warship Grecale.

This alert automatically and in real time sends main data of event to Italian national authorities and to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) competent in that area: the IMRCC (the Indian Coast Guard’s one. having its headquarter in Mumbai).

Vitelli himself gives the first evidence that the alert was effectively launched when he communicates he was contacted from the warship “Grecale”, the Italian missile frigate that, within the anti-piracy NATO mission “Ocean Shield” - was in the Aden Gulf at 992 nautical miles distant from Enrica Lexie (more than 1,800 Km). Too far to intervene ( * ).
* - source: Navy Press Office in L'Unità of 2 April 2013

Report sent to MSCHOA-UKMTO
Report sent from the Enrica Lexie’s Captain to the ship owner and to anti-piracy organizations (MSCHOA-UKMTO).

Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC (Member of the Bar of England and Wales) will mention again the SSAS on 10 August 2015 during the first ITLOS hearing, where he affirmed that:

"the ship position, as on the map, was taken from data automatically generated by Enrica lexie ship security alert system, activated following to the bearing of an apparently pirate attack, and this position was included in the message automatically generated in that moment. (...) coordinates given in the message were generated automatically when the alert button was pressed. no one contests, being it a fact, that incident took place beyond indian territorial sea" (P.7 #32-39)

   Transcription of ITLOS public hearing of 10 August 2015

The SSAS alert message exists and it is recorded in the Tribunal archives (Annex A3)

Message automatically from Enrica Lexie SSAS
The message automatically generated from Enrica Lexie SSAS.

Indian claim according which they did not receive the SSAS alert would mean that the entire Indian system responsible for rescue and reception of alert messages was off duty. Not only the land bases, but even military ships at anchor or sailing.

Military and police installations in the Kerala
Military and police installations in the Kerala coast in front of the accident.

A very serious fact is that a rescue request was received by everyone except by those who had to receive it or, worst, it was received but ignored so that they did not intervene.

Considering the facts, we can just outline that SSAS alert launched by Enrica Lexie at 11.23 UTC should have been the first one chronologically reported by ICG in ANNEX 1, but it is not.

This is a serious omission, which completely changes the framework and causes an irremediable damage against men who were on board of Enrica Lexie: i.e. to be escaped without informing Indian authorities. A blameworthy lie. Nothing could be more false.

The Hunting

At 17:40 IST the Neendakara Coastal Police Station (hereinafter CPS) contacts the MRCC. The police of the small harbour where St.Antony dropped anchor reports that: "A merchant ship fired against the fishing vessel St.Antony causing the death of two fishermen" [ 1 ] also giving all data received by St.Antony until that moment (CPS defined them, in its report (Annex 3): "cryptic information regarding this incident), data necessary to the ICG to start the search.

Indications as:

  • name of ship: [Enrica Lexie]
  • nationality of flag: [Italy]
  • typology: [oil tanker]
  • a summary description: [black and red]
  • place and time of incident: [16:30, 20.5Nm from the coast of Allepey]
  • direction and speed: [330°, 13-14 kts.]

If the data that Neendakara CPS gave to MRCC were similar to these, the official on duty who received Enrica Lexie SSAS alert at least forty - five minutes before (alert which reports time and position of incident, route and speed of Italian ship) would have immediately incited the whole ICG to chase the Enrica Lexie. On the contrary, the initial search is for a generic “suspect vessel” [ 3 ] and lasts an hour and a half.

What indication Neendakara, and then Mumbai, received by St.Antony, or in other words what and where ICG was searching is not clear.

It is possible to deduce it from the report drafted by the pilot of the Dornier CG760 reconnaissance aircraft (Annex A7) who received mission instructions when he was on airstrip waiting for take-off order.

The mission instructions provided to the reconnaissance pilot
The mission instructions provided to the reconnaissance pilot.

The pilot writes: "I was to carry out the search of a suspect vessel between Kollam and Kodungallur". No other indication: nothing about oil tanker, nothing about black and red ship, nothing about northern or southern direction. Nothing.

The aeronaval research

The search had the goal to find the unspecified “suspect vessel” in an 170 km. area. An area very close to one of the most modern Indian cargo ports (more than 20 millions of tons of goods transited through the Kochi port only in 2012 ), along the water way that connects Europe, Africa and Arab oil terminals with Asia. The "western India marine highway", the busiest mercantile route in the world. In these conditions, possibilities of a successful aeronaval research are so low that in fact it was not even tried.

The Dornier 228 still awaiting the take-off authorization
The Dornier 228 still awaiting the take-off authorization. He did not carry out any reconnaissance, he took off directly on the Enrica Lexie.

The aircraft did not take off and continued waiting in the airstrip, while the ICGS Samar headed "at full speed" toward the place of incident, at that point deserted.

Instrumental research (AIS)

According to the ANNEX 1, thanks to AIS-SB data analysis (AIS detects data through a low-orbit satellite rather than through coastal stations), the investigation takes a sharp turn at 19.10 IST. From AIS-SB tracks, in fact, a confirmation arrives: the suspect vessel was identified: it is the Enrica Lexie. [ 4 ]

However, things did not go exactly in this way. The military report drafted after the irruption on the Enrica Lexie (Annex A9) describes more exhaustively how ICG came to identification:

The Dornier 228 still awaiting the take-off authorization
How ICG came to identification of Enrica Lexie.

Actually, the AIS-SB analysis, supposing that initial data were correct, narrowed down the search to four compatible targets, four ships from which shots could have been fired against the fishing vessel (St. Antony incident)..

PAY ATTENTION NOW:

...as only one of these four ships informed the competent anti-piracy authorities to have fired (Enrica Lexie incident) then they are the offenders.

ICG proceeded by excluding categorically that ships from which shots came that afternoon could not be more than one. The reason still escapes us. We will understand it when they will be called before the judges during the trial.

Four suspected, one guilty.

Every trace of the other three "compatible” ships is lost. As regards this analysis and what was produced in tribunal, they were not even consulted, thus defying any control. In that period names of some ships (Kamome Victoria, Ocean Breeze, MBA Giovanni) were published on Indian press, however when we tried to have some evidence, it emerged that no one of them could be connected to the crime scene because of direction, position and time.

Instead, we are sure that in the research area – as defined by the pilot – there was at least another black and red oil tanker (Olympic Fair), which – some hours later - will denounce an attempted boarding as well. However, due the unreliability of documents given by ICG, where who is supposed to be there is not and who was there is not supposed to be, we cannot exclude there were other ships, maybe many others...

The issue of AIS.

The last AIS position of Enrica Lexie
The last AIS position of Enrica Lexie before the incident.

There is a serious doubt about the identification by using AIS tracks. They talked about anti-collision AIS system during the days immediately following the incident, when someone noted that, after being seen close to Sri Lanka at 13:51 UTC of 14 February, Enrica Lexie disappeared from AIS tracks.

It is a standard practice to turn off the AIS in order to not be identified by pirates while approaching the HRA (the piracy High Risk Area, which includes the western Indian coasts).

In the Enrica Lexie logbook (Annex A14) there is evidence about what effectively happened.

At 18:00 ELT of 14 February Captain Vitelli writes down to have given the instructions required for navigation through HRA. Reinforced the vigilance, enabled the precautions.

From Enrica Lexie logbook
From (Annex A14) Enrica Lexie logbook: 14 February 2012.

As far as we are enabled to understand, and unless otherwise proved, Enrica Lexies sails with its AIS device turned off, since it left Sri Lanka.

It would be very embarrassing for ICG if the circumstance was confirmed.

The Capture

There is another event in ANNEX 1 which ICG 'forgets' to note down: At about 19:00 shortly before announcing to the whole wide world that it had identified the ‘suspect ship’, MRCC contacted the Enrica Lexie via INMARSAT and this fact is mentioned by various documents (ANNEX 27) (A9) (A14) but not by ANNEX 1. Here is how this call was recorded in the Enrica Lexie’s Log Book by Commander Vitelli. Vitelli riporta telefonatal MRCC [Enrica Lexie’s Log Book – 15th February 2012 - Times ] As shown above Vitelli writes on the matter: "Bombay MRCC .... told us that they had been informed about the suspect pirate attack and, as a result, had seized two crafts meaning theSSAS alert had reached the ICG - "Having enquired about our course and speed" – that means this data was neither visible nor traced by the AIS-SB system - "they asked me to change course and head towards Cochin (India) to take stock of events and bear witness" – this is a lie, a deception, false information or, as stated to the Press by the Inspector General S.P.S. Basra, Coast Guard Regional Commander (West): .... the Coast Guard had employed an INGENIOUS ‘TACTIC' (from The Hindu 18th February 2012) to which Vitelli merely made a simple request - "I requested and received a written request" – which reached him shortly afterwards by e-mail. MRCC: dirigersi a Kochi [Request sent by IMRCC to Enrica Lexie to head for Kochi] At 19.45 MV Enrica Lexie heads for Kochi as stated on the ship’s Log Book: its new course and the detour made. Neither ships nor planes were necessary to capture the ship, a plain lie has been sufficient. When it reached Kochi, as requested by ICG [ 10 ] the Enrica Lexie was directed by the Cochin Port Trust to an outer anchorage, 7nm offshore. It dropped anchor at 22.18 monitored by ICGS Lakshmibai on patrol [ 11 ][the Enrica Lexie’s voyage is over.

The "Special Effects"

INS Kabra that sails at 19:30 [ 5 ] [the Dornier CG760 which takes off at 19:35 [ 6 ][ the Police that sends 4 officers on board ICGS Lakshmibai [ 7 ]7the reconnaissance vessel that sights the tanker and directs it to head for Kochi at 19:50 when the ship is already on its way there [ 8 ][ICGS Lakshmibai which sails with the Police on board (but will get in sight of the Enrica Lexie only at 21:30) [[ 9 ]. Do not let all that impress you, they are only Special Effects that the Indian Coast Guard thought fit to add to its tale. And that is not the end of it. On the morning of that 16th of February, shortly before the ICG and Police (who sent 36 men) burst onto the ship, a fishing boat similar to the St Antony was brought under the beam of the Enrica Lexie. --- Foto presunta colpevolezza Just the time needed to take some aerial pictures meant to show “the killer”, “the victim” and “the avenger”. It should be noted that both ships and the boat are static. This picture was immediately released by the Coast Guard press office, copied and relayed by every newspaper and all the news sites of the world. This photograph became the icon of "Italian guilt" in spite of the fact that the fishing boat had returned the evening before to its home harbour of Neendakara. Definitely something was wrong and not only the times reported... --- ICG News release del 16.02.12 --- ICG Press Office – News release dated 16.02.2012 The real St Antony has obviously been seized in Neendakara, at a distance of at least 130km away from the tanker. What the picture shows is “similar”, and maybe found possibly at night, and begins the creation off an Italian guilt evidently decided beforehand even before an actual enquiry may start. For a full discussion of this specific episode: ita www.seeninside.net/piracy/inizio.pdf eng www.seeninside.net/piracy/beginning.pdf

Conclusions

The ANNEX 1 document seems marred by serious omissions and obvious contradictions with the only purpose of forming a prejudicial framework. So no escape, no hunt, no capture, but the naive attempt to credit an alleged Italian guilt, with MV Enrica Lexie fleeing into the Indian Ocean and the Coast Guard launching an aerial and naval operation to grab the tanker. In practical terms the method used, to limit the search area and therefore identify the ship, is by no means convincing. The enquiry framework gives no reason why out of four suspects one only will be investigated. There are serious omissions about the SSAS alert but also about the use of TACTICS by a Rescue Centre. Even more serious is that they endeavoured to find a fake for the St Antony fishing boat to achieve their aims, especially when one considers that, since the preceding night, a clear contradiction was apparent as to the time when the fishing boat was shot at. This contradiction should have cautioned to be more careful and abstain from proclaiming a culprit.