India has called for renewed powers from the United Nations to allow naval ships to enter Somali territorial waters to tackle the threat from pirates.

In a submission to the International Maritime Organization, India warned of a “viable and imminent threat” to commercial shipping after pirates in December completed their first successful hijack in six years.

The UN Security Council first agreed in 2008 to allow ships from nations cooperating with Somali authorities to enter the east African state’s territorial waters to “repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea”.

The agreement was repeatedly rolled over but finally lapsed in March 2022 after cases of piracy declined from the peak years of 2004 to 2008, according to the submission by India.

It has now called for the measure to be reinstated amid concerns that the Red Sea crisis will contribute to broader instability across the wider region and allow a resurgence of piracy.

It cited the seizure of the 41,600-dwt Bulgarian handymax bulker Ruen (built 2016) with 18 crew members in December. Negotiations continue for the release of the Navibulgar-owned ship.

It said at least five other vessels have been attacked, boarded or hijacked by a group of pirates operating out of Puntland, Somalia.

“The recent instances of pirate attacks and hijacking of merchant ships and fishing dhows by Somali pirates indicate the potential re-emergence of piracy attempts in the region,” India said, adding that there is a “viable and imminent threat to freedom of navigation and commercial shipping from piracy in the region”.

“Continuous vigilance and proactive measures in the region are not only essential but also non-negotiable to combat the threat of piracy and restore the safety of seafarers and commercial shipping, as well as freedom of navigation.”

Naval forces deployed in the region including the US-led 41-nation Combined Maritime Forces and the European Union EUNAVFOR Atalanta operation.

Since March 2022, warships on anti-piracy duties are allowed into Somali territorial waters only with the permission of the federal government.

A EUNAVFOR spokesman said a new request had to be made on every occasion, but they had all been allowed so far by the internationally recognised government.

India called on member states at a meeting of the IMO’s legal committee in April to push the UN to reinstate the extra powers “for the repression of resurgent Somali piracy” within its territorial waters.

The Indian Navy has played an active role in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea.

Its marines boarded the 170,100-dwt Lila Norfolk (built 2006) in January after it was seized by an armed group off the coast of Somalia. The hijackers had left the bulk carrier before the marines boarded.