Special for Africa Express
Mombasa, 1st November 2014
Seven Indian Seafarers who have been held hostage since their ship, the MV Asphalt Venture, was hijacked in the Somali basin on 28 September 2010, have been released and are safe in Kenya.
The 1991-built, Panamanian flagged , 3884 dwt., general cargo ship “MV Asphalt Venture”, with a crew of 15 was hijacked by Somali pirates off Dar es Salaam while under way from Mombasa to Durban Natal, South Africa. In April 2011 the vessel with 8 of her crew was released, following a ransom payment amounting to US dollars 3.5 milion, while the remaining 7 Indian seafarers were detained ashore.
Following lengthy negotiations, the release of these men was arranged after a modest payment was made “to cover the logistical and transport costs” of the group holding the men. Preparations are now being made for their return to India in the next few days. Their families have been informed.
Last July a pirate leader is said to have been seriously injured while one gunman is said to have died during a heavy exchange of gun fire amongst gunmen holding captive seven Indian crew members.
Reports filtering Mombasa mid-last July indicated that fighting erupted amongst pirates holding captive the crew members soon after ransom money amounting to US dollars 500,000 was delivered to the gunmen to secure safe release of the hostages. Initially the pirates holding captive the seven former crew members of the ship were demanding 1 million US dollars to release the hostages.
The hostages were held captive in a remote village known as FAA some 20 kilometers from Harardheere. They were kept hostage by a pirate group under the leadership of Fathi Gacamey.
Despite the owner’s concluding a dialogue with the pirates for the full release of 15 crew and vessel and payment of the ransom, the vessel was released but 6 officers and 1 rating were taken off the tanker and made to accompany the pirates ashore.
Media reports suggested that pirates in Harardheere have taken the decision not to honor the agreement made but to prolong the hostage ordeal of the 7 seafarers in retaliation for the arrest of Somali pirates by the Indian Navy. There are about 105 suspected Somali pirates arrested by Indian navy undergoing trial in the courts of law of India.
Thirty seafarers and fishers are still held hostage by Somali pirates, some for more than four and a half years and the others for more than two and half years.
Seafarers Union of Kenya
In the picture: top the ship Asphalt Venture and down the seven captive crew members (From left to right): T.B. Unnikrishnan, George Joseph, Sohan Singh, Bahadur Singh, Bhim Singh, Daniston, Manjit Singh) pictured in a January 2013 from an undisclosed location in Somalia.