On 15th February 2012, between 16.00h and 17.00h local time ELT the Italian oil tanker “Enrica Lexie”, which navigated 22 NM off the Indian coast of Kerala following a direction of 330° with a speed of 14 knots, was approached by a vessel in a manner considered to be aggressive.
The on-board radar picked up such a vessel on a collision course at 2,8 NM (nautical miles) away from the Italian tanker. After giving the alarm, the Italian tanker increased its speed, but the vessel kept nearing, at which point the Italian marines prepared to react. (They were part of a detail of six embarked on anti-pirates protection service on board of the Italian oil tanker “Enrica Lexie”).
They carried out the prescribed procedures for such cases. When the vessel was 500 metres away, the first warning shots were fired. Another warning burst was fired at 300 metres and a third one at 100 metres without striking the vessel. The vessel changed direction and turned away.
The marines reported that the vessel, which according to their description was a blue twelve meters boat, was not hit.
The master of Enrica Lexie reported the events to the person in charge of the fitout company based in Naples (Italy), who reported the events to the Italian judiciary in Rome, in obedience to international established procedures, as the Italian tanker out of Indian territorial waters (Territorial waters end at 12 NM from the coast).
At about 18.20h local time ELT a message of the Indian Coast Guard in Mumbai tricked the Italian tanker into coming to port reporting that they had heard of an attack and that they had seized two crafts, prospecting that the vessel could have been the one involved in the incident of the afternoon and inviting them to give statements. They invited the Italian tanker to come back to Kochi.
After consultation with the Italian authorities (Ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs), by decision of the fitout company, the oil tanker “Enrica Lexie” changed direction about 19.30h local time ELT and entered the Indian port of Kochi at about 23.00h ELT local time.
Later, the two marines who had opened fire were arrested and accused of having killed two Indian fishermen embarked on the fishing boat “St. Anthony”.
Report of Italian Marines Chief
"15th Febr. 16:00 local time ELT - While the navy unity M/T (motor tanker, ndr) Enrica Lexie was sailing at the coordinates 091702N - 0760180E 20 NM off the coast of Allepey (India) the officer on guard on the bridge informed the anti-piracy protection team of a target picked up by the on-board radar with no identification number at 3 NM at the bow of the unity on a collision course.
After monitoring it constantly both by radar and without instruments the target could be identified with a small vessel.
At a distance of about 800 yards we made warning signals using Panerai lights from the right deck obtaining no results. After having given the alarm, while the vessel was positioning, one of the two members of the protection team on the right deck showed the rifle AR 70/90 raising it. This was useless. The vessel did not change course.
At a distance of about 500 yards the first warning shots were fired into the water. But again the vessel did not turn back. It kept on approaching on a collision course.
At about 300 yards a second warning burst was fired into the water after that one of the members of the protection team had given the alarm because on the nearing vessel there were persons with firearms on their shoulders, which were sighted using binoculars.
The vessel kept on nearing. Two of us kept on shooting warning shots into the water till the vessel at less than 100 yards changed course on our right side turning back astern.
After having turned back astern the vessel did not have a definitive course. Many times it started navigating again towards us. The whole protection team kept on showing the weapons and making light signals using Panerai lights till the vessel increased its speed and sailed away on open sea.
At 17h local time ELT I considered it opportune, in view of the considerable distance from the aggressor, to cease to be in the state of anti-piracy alarm letting the crew leave the cabin.
The anti-piracy protection team continued its service on board."
The Version of Captain Noviello
Passage from the interview given to Antonio Iovane (Radio Capital) by captain Carlo Noviello, second-in-command on the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie, witness of the boarding attempt occurred off the Indian coast of Kerala on 15th February 2012:
The unabridged interview published on 12th March 2013 can be listened to on the website 'www.repubblica.it'