Somali pirates on Friday released a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship after a ransom was paid, but are continuing to detain some of its Indian crew, claiming they will not be released until India frees captured Somali pirates.
The 3,884-deadweight ton MT Asphalt Venture was seized by Somali pirates on September 29 last year as it was heading from Mombassa, Kenya, to Durban in South Africa. It had 15 crewmembers on board, all of who are Indian nationals.
On Friday the vessel was released from pirate captivity. “We have received US$3.6 million early this morning for the release of the tanker,” a pirate calling himself Ahmed said, according to Afrikan Post.
“The ship has just sailed away but we have taken some of its Indian crew back because the Indian government is currently holding our men. We need the Indian government to free our men so that we can release their citizens,” the pirate said.
According to the Associated Press, seven Indian crewmembers are still being held by the pirates, although all 15 crew were Indian, the shipowners said on Saturday. The ship was managed by Mumbai-based Omci Ship Management Pvt and owned by Interglobal of the United Arab Emirates.
On Friday, Hassan Farah said pirates in the stronghold of Haradhere in Somalia had taken a collective decision not to release the Indian crew members, AP reports. “We decided to keep the Indian because India is holding our colleagues,” Farah said. “We released the other crew members who sailed away from our coast. We will keep these Indians until the Indians release our colleagues.”
Sunil Puri, a New Delhi-based spokesman for Interglobal, told AP that the action was ‘unprecedented’ as Interglobal had kept its side of the bargain. “We don’t know why they weren’t released. This is an unprecedented situation. In the past they have always kept their world.”
Omci Ship Management has now appointed a third party negotiator to try and secure the release of the seven remaining hostages, DNA India reports.
The Indian Navy has seized more than a hundred pirates this year. In March it captured 61 pirates after they attacked an Indian Navy ship. The pirates are being prosecuted in India.
Pirates are holding nearly 30 vessels and more than 600 hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau.