Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Massive rally of mariners in Mumbai

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai, on April 27, 2011:
CHENNAI: As a mark of protest and to show solidarity with the seven seafarers, who were held hostage by Somali pirates in retaliation to the action of Indian authorities on pirates, the mariners have planned a massive march in Mumbai on Wednesday to appeal to the government to take immediate steps to secure their release.
At the march, the seafarers bodies -- National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI), Maritime Union of India (MUI) and Ship Owners associations Indian National Ship Owners’ Association (INSA), Foreign Owners Representative and Ship Managers Association (FOSMA), Maritime Association of Ship Owners, Ship Managers and Agents (MASSA) and other stakeholders -- are scheduled to take part.
In support of the peaceful march in Mumbai against the hostage-taking of Indian seafarers in Somalia, the shipping community in Chennai will hold a meeting at the Seafarers Club on Wednesday to find ways to prevail upon the Central Government to initiate action to free the Indian hostages now languishing in an unknown location in Somalia.
According to the organisers, the intention of the peaceful march, which is coordinated by NUSI, is to highlight the crisis and demand from the Government of India the safety of the Indian seafarers. A petition will be handed over to the Directorate General of Shipping at the end of the rally.
Over the past few years, particularly since 2008, many Indian seafarers have been taken hostage by the pirates from Somalia. These seafarers have had to suffer for months together and were released only after payment of ransom by the shipping companies.
In the Panama Flag vessel Asphalt Venture, which was hijacked in September 2010, all the 15-crew members were from India. The negotiations for the release of these seafarers have been on and a deal was struck between the pirates and the shipping company.
Despite agreeing and receiving the ransom amount the pirates have released the ship and only eight crewmembers out of 15. When the pirates left the ship Asphalt Venture, they took along with them 6 officers and 1 seaman.
According to Capt K Vivekanand, president, Merchant Navy Officers Association, Chennai, “We are not aware about the whereabouts of the seven seafarers but have been given to understand that this hostage taking was in retaliation for the capture of more than 100 pirates by the Indian authorities.

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