Thursday, March 29, 2012

32 Indians held hostage by Somali pirates


By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on March 29, 2012:
CHENNAI: The latest ‘Situation Report’ on pirate activities released by the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) on Wednesday has revealed that Somali pirates around the Horn of Africa are holding eight vessels and 236 crews hostage.
In an e-mail reply to Express, the Public Information Office of EU NAVFOR has revealed that of the 236 sailors now held hostage by the pirates in the region, 32 are Indians, which includes seven members from the ship ‘Asphalt Venture’ that had been released but the hostages are still being held.
Asphalt Venture was hijacked on September 28, 2010 in the Somali Basin and after intervention from anti-piracy forces, she was released from the pirates’ captivity on April 15, 2011. However, pirates took hostage of about 15 of the vessel’s crew seeking more ransom.
According to the report, of the eight vessels that were held by pirates, Panama-flagged MV Iceberg-1 with 22 crew members onboard would be completing two years in the pirates’ captivity on Thursday.
The report further revealed that besides Iceberg, MV Albedo (Malaysia-flag), MV Orna (Panama-flag), M V Liquid Velvet (Marshall Islands-flag), MV Enrico Ievoli (Italy-flag), MV Free Goddess (Liberia-flag), MV Leila (Panama-flag), MV Royal Grace (Panama-flag) and MV Eglantine (Bolivia-flag) were the other vessels held by the pirates.
While MV Iceberg-1 was hijacked on March 29, 2010, the latest one joining the infamous club was MV Eglantine, which was hijacked on Monday with 23 crewmembers onboard.
It may be noted that the Council of the European Union on Friday last extended the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) counter-piracy mission, Operation Atlanta off the Somali coast until December 2014.
The latest report further revealed that about 51 sailors (besides those 185 sailors onboard the hijacked eight vessels) were being held as hostages by the pirates even after releasing their vessels. The list includes, six crew from MV Leopord, Asphalt Venture (7), Yatch Choizil (2), FV Prantalay-12 (4), FV Shiuh Fu-1 (26), MV Gemini (4) and two crew from FV Aride.
With two vessels hijacked by the pirates in March alone, the EU Naval Force has increased its surveillance along the Horn of Africa to ward off the pirates.

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