Two military-grade aircraft launching gears meant for ‘Royal Saudi Land Forces’ have illegally landed at a private port in Kutch district of Gujarat through Pakistan, sending security forces into a tizzy.
The load — ‘military grade’ aircraft launching gears — were, intriguingly, not declared on two containers in which they were stuffed and packed aboard Kyoto Express ship at a New York port on November 8.
The containers were shown as ’empty’. But when customs officers at Mundra port opened them on Friday, they found aircraft launching gears – essentially used in aircraft carriers to assist takeoff of jets from the deck.
Security sources said the military-grade aircraft launching gears found at the Mundra port are manufactured by only two corporate giants, Boeing (based in the US) and Airbus (headquartered in Europe).
That there is something fishy about containers was first detected by a surveyor of the shipping line when it was moved to the yard, customs department sources told ET on conditions of anonymity.
What has raised eyebrows in the customs and other security agencies such as the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is why the two containers were not offloaded like some others after berthing the Kyoto Express – a carrier owned by Hapag-Lloyd Aktiengesellschaft, Hamburg in Germany – at Jeddah port?
“Officials could not figure out what it was from the literature and other papers lay in the containers after both were opened,” said a senior officer aware of the development.
“Subsequently, shipping line was asked to get bill of lading from its main office in New York.” During the initial probe, custom officials realised that the bill of lading procured from shipper DHL Global Forwarding of United States clearly stated that the consignee is ‘Royal Saudi Land Forces’ and the gears were to reach: ‘Prince Sultan Road, HWY 156 Jizan Saudi Arabia’.
But, in the import general manifest (IGM), which the shipping line files with the customs department, these two containers were declared “empty”.
The vessel departed from New York and sailed through three to five ports, including Karachi, before dropping 300 odd empty containers, including the two suspicious ones, at Mundra port on Friday night.
An inquiry pointed out that Hapag-Lloyd official website showed the containers were unloaded at Mundra at 22.22 pm on December 20.
The consignment was meant for the Royal Saudi Land Forces. The Saudis, however, do not have an aircraft carrier in their fleet. Diplomats at Saudi Arabia embassy here were not available for comments.
The customs department at Gujarat has sent a detailed report informing its Delhi-based nodal national agency, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, about the mysterious landing of catapults for jets.
Sanjay Agarwal, principal commissioner of customs for Mundra port, said, “Before reaching to any conclusion I would not like to reach to any conclusion whether it’s a mischief or something else due to sensitivities involved.”
Sources stated that earlier there have been a few cases where Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and a few corporate companies ordered spare parts and even machines from the US and these went missing and were never traced.
Earlier on May 10th, 2019 at around 4pm, the Indian Air Force radars detected an Antonov AN-12 aircraft crossing into Indian airspace from an unauthorized point near Gujarat.
The aircraft was forced to land at Jaipur airport where it was checked by the IB, Air Force, CISF, and Jaipur Police. As reported by the media, the aircraft was allowed to leave after that as Air Force sources played down the incident. The mysterious cargo of the Antonov aircraft remains unknown to this day.