Negotiations on to free hijacked ship, crew reported safe(Lead, Changing dateline)

May 21st, 2008 - 7:21 pm ICT by admin  

By Aroonim Bhuyan and Quaid Najmi
Dubai/Mumbai, May 21 (IANS) Negotiations have been taken up to secure release of the hijacked Jordanian vessel M.V. Victoria, which has 10 Indian crew members on board, though Somalian leaders threatened to attack the ship if the pirates did not release it. The ship was hijacked off the coast of Mogadishu May 17 and is now believed to be anchored at a small port in a coastal village, Murgane, around 500 nautical miles from the Somalian capital.

“Islamic leaders in the village of Murgane have said they would attack the ship if the hijackers don’t respond to their calls to release the ship,” Andrew Mwangura, programme coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, a Kenyan association for workers in the marine industry, told IANS Wednesday from Mombasa, Kenya.

“No communication has been established with the hijackers as yet,” he added.

India’s Directorate-General of Shipping (DGS) later said negotiations have been taken up and the crew members are “reported to be safe”.

Owned by the United Arab Emirates-based Marwan Shipping company and flying the Jordanian flag, the vessel is carrying 21 crew members, of whom 10 are Indians and the others from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania.

The Indian crew members include: Uttam Bhattacharjee, Sombir Kumar, Jayeshmukar Tandela, Naresh Tandel, Akhilesh Singh, Sadashiv Yadav, Chandrakant Tandel, Iman Ghosh, Leslye Anselmo Gomes and Jaivindh Jose R.

The captain of the ship is a Pakistani, Master A. A. Siddiqui and Chief Officer is S. Nayyar Q. Naqvi. Other crew members are Tanzanian chief engineer H.S. Hassan, second engineer Khin Maung Win, third engineer Aung Ko Latt (both from Myanmar), Abul Kasem, Mohammed Absar (both from Bangladesh), Mohammed M. Abdallah (Tanzania), Vincent Onyango, Juma Juma H. Mohoru and Abdalla Omar Ali (all from Kenya).

The ship, headed from Mumbai in India, was carrying 4,200 tonnes of sugar donated by Denmark to war-torn Somalia as aid when it was seized 40 nautical miles off Mogadishu.

Earlier Tuesday, the DGS stated that the ship was traced to a small port of Hobiyo, near Elmaan.

Simultaneously, the Indian Coast Guard’s Mumbai-based Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre is coordinating with the search and rescue agencies in Yemen, the Seychelles and Norway to initiate necessary action against piracy and furnish relevant information here.

The DGS has also approached Jordan’s ministry of transport, requesting its cooperation and strategic help to resolve the issue and secure the release of the ship.

The hijacking of MV Victoria is the third such incident to be reported in Somalia in the past five months.

“Indian authorities are in touch with Jordan’s foreign ministry and transport ministry regarding the hijacked ship MV Victoria,” a diplomatic source told IANS Tuesday from the Jordanian capital Amman.

The US Navy has also offered to help rescue the vessel. According to DGS, the Maritime Liaison Office Commander, US Naval Forces-Central Command, Bahrain, has offered all possible help to free the vessel and the crew members held hostage.

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