Back from captivity, Punjab sailors dream of next voyage

April 28th, 2011 - 10:53 am ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi Chandigarh, April 28 (IANS) It is said the only time a sailor feels at home is when he is at sea. Demonstrating this spirit, two young sailors from Punjab, who spent almost a year in the captivity of Somali pirates, say they still love the sea and are eager to sail as soon as possible.

“There is nothing negative about my profession. Every job involves some risk. Yes, we had a real tough time for nearly a year, but it has not shaken our passion towards our job. We still love the sea and want to return to work as soon as possible,” second officer Partap Inder Singh, 27, resident of neighbouring Mohali town, told IANS.

Partap was among the 11 Indian sailors of the 26-member crew of Rak Afrikana, a Dubai-registered 7,600-tonne cargo ship. It was hijacked by Somali pirates April 11, 2010, near Harardhere, in the vicinity of the Seychelles, while sailing to Zanzibar in Tanzania.

The crew was finally released March 10, 2011, after the shipping company coughed up an unspecified ransom amount. Fifty-five Indian sailors are still in the captivity of Somali pirates.

“In fact, we are very thankful to the Indian government as they helped secure our release. Now, we have become more focussed and strong, both mentally and emotionally, and are ready to face any kind of adversity,” he said.

Cadet Navdeep Singh, 24, who too was on the ill-fated ship, told IANS: “Yes, it was the most difficult period so far and we had to manage with countless problems. But I do not want to share much about the problems as it can pose a threat to the lives of other Indian sailors who are still in captivity of pirates at various places.”

“We cannot stop sailing out of fear of pirates. It is not the solution to this problem. Rather, we have to act more courageously and not let anybody dictate anything to us.

“My career in merchant navy has just started and I would like to continue. I would soon forget this incident as a bad nightmare,” said Navdeep, a resident of Punjab’s Kharar town, some 15 km from here.

The duo said the crew were kept on the ship in very inhuman conditions. Though they were not tied up, several gun-toting pirates were always present in their midst.

Food comprised rice and potatoes, and occasionally pulses. There was no arrangement for clean drinking water.

The ship’s captain, Prem Kumar, was released after 320 days of captivity. He had become very weak and suffered a paralytic attack. He died a few days after his release.

Worried family members of the Indian sailors also met Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur in February and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in March.

However, Preneet Kaur admitted that many Indian sailors are still held hostage by Somali pirates.

“We have around 55 Indians in the captivity of Somali pirates. Our government is doing every possible thing to get them released,” Kaur told IANS.

“But Somalia does not have a stable government and the country is dominated by violence. So, pirates are easily flourishing there, despite the presence of naval warships and military forces of various nations,” she added.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at

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