Sailors to protest Somali piracy on Wednesday

April 25th, 2011 - 9:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, April 25 (IANS) Thousands of sailors will take out protest marches in eight cities across the country Wednesday to condemn the hijackings and hostage taking by Somali pirates, a top official said here Monday.

The protests will be held in Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Diu, Kolkata, Tuticorin, Dehra Dun and Chiplun, and sailors will hand over signed petitions to the respective authorities there.

“Indian seafarers are an important work force of our country. Thousands of them are working on Indian and foreign flag ships. They do yeoman service in the export-import trade of India, especially bringing the much needed crude oil from the Gulf,” said A.Y. Serang, general secretary of the powerful National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI).

However, in the past few years, particularly since 2008, many Indian sailors have been taken hostage by Somali pirates.

Serang referred to the September 2010 hijacking of a Panamanian vessel ‘Asphalt Venture’, which had seven Indian crewmen on board.

The negotiations for releasing the sailors were started and a deal was struck between the pirates and the shipping company.

“However, despite agreeing to and receiving the ransom amount, they released the ship and eight other crewmen, but not the seven Indian sailors. We believe this hostage taking was in retaliation to the capture of more than 100 pirates by Indian authorities,” Serang said.

The case was particularly disturbing as this was the first time the pirates had gone back on their word after receiving the ransom amount.

As a mark of solidarity, other organisations too have decided to join the NUSI demonstrations, including Maritime Union of India, Indian National Shipowners Association, Foreign Owners Representative and Ship Managers Association, Maritime Association of Shipowners, Shipmanagers and Agents.

The march will be held simultaneously in all the cities Wednesday at 3 p.m.

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