Ship owners ask Somali pirates to release seven Indians (Lead)

April 17th, 2011 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The owners of MV Asphalt Venture Sunday appealed to Somali pirates to keep to their word and release the vessel’s remaining seven Indian sailors. Eight Indian crew members were freed by the pirates a day earlier.

“The owners of the Asphalt Venture have expressed deep disappointment over the pirates reneging on their word. This is despite meeting all demands of the negotiated settlement and paying the mutually agreed ransom,” an official statement issued by the company said.

The pirates Saturday released the Panama-flagged tanker with only eight of the 15-member all-Indian crew. The deal with the pirates was that they would hand over all hostages after getting the money.

The tanker was hijacked by the pirates Sep 28 last year, and had been moored some five miles off Harardhere in central Somalia.

“The vessel is in Somali waters. The owners appeal to the pirates to honour their word and immediately release the six officers and one crew member. All owners of other ships hijacked by pirates which are still captive in Somalia will lose faith in the negotiation process, unless those taken from the Asphalt Venture are returned immediately and allowed to sail with their fellow seafarers,” it said.

The ship managers earlier in the day said that they had not heard anything from the pirates after the last agreement and were trying hard to get in touch with them.

“We haven’t been able to contact them after the last agreement. We are making every possible attempt to get in touch with these people, but they haven’t got back to us. We are only getting the news from the media,” Sunil Puri from OMCI Ship Management, managers of the MV Asphalt Venture, told NDTV.

“We did everything possible for their release under the norms. This situation is completely unprecedented. They haven’t got back to us. We are trying our level best through Indian and international authorities to make contact with these people and secure the release of the people. It is paramount,” he said.

“We are in close contact with the Indian government and the Indian Navy. We won’t be able to share more details considering the security of hostages,” the official added.

According to Somalia Report, a news service from the African nation, the pirates were reportedly angry at the $3.5 million ransom amount, which was lower than what they expected and were holding the remaining crew members to extract more money.

The Indian Navy has captured 120 Somali pirates during its anti-piracy operations in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

The biggest seizure was of 61 Somali pirates last month after a mother ship, Vega 5, was apprehended.

According to latest figures, 53 Indian sailors are being held hostage on five different ships. Of them, 17 have been held for the longest on MT Savina Caylyn, an Italian ship which was captured Feb 8, 2010.

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