Two-month ordeal was nightmare: Stolt Valor captain (Lead)

November 18th, 2008 - 8:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) In a first letter sent from on board Mt Stolt Valor, the Japanese merchant vessel that Somalian pirates hijacked two months back and released Sunday, the ship’s master Captain Prabhat Kumar Goyal has termed the ordeal a “nightmare”.“It was not only an ordeal but also a nightmare for all of us on board the Stolt Valor,” Goyal noted in a written communication to the Director General Communication. A copy of the letter is with IANS.

Mt Stolt Valor, with 22 crewmembers including 18 Indians, was hijacked by a group of Somalian pirates off the Yemen coast Sep 15 while it was bound for Mumbai from the Suez Canal. The pirates took the vessel to the Somalian coast and demanded a ransom of $2 million.

After being freed, the ship started sailing for Mumbai Sunday morning. The speed of the ship has been very slow and it is expected to reach Mumbai by Nov 24.

“I wish to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude and also on behalf of my officers and crew for the very sincere efforts made by our owners, Fleet Management Ltd, and to all involved directly or indirectly in getting all 22 crewmembers and the vessel itself safely released from the Somalian hijackers,” Goyal said.

The Gulf of Aden is one of the busiest, but most pirate-infested, shipping lanes in the world. A sizeable portion of India’s imports flow through the Gulf of Aden and there has been a quantum jump in the number of piracy attacks there in the past few months.

According to figures from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), there were 37 incidents of piracy off the Somalia coast between mid-March 2005 and mid-February 2006, compared to just two in 2004.

The IMB says 74 ships have been attacked off Somalia since January. Of these, 30 were hijacked and 10 are still held for ransom. Pirates are holding almost 200 crew.

The Indian Navy has been engaged in anti-piracy patrolling in the Gulf of Aden for the past four weeks to keep an eye over vessels passing the region and has repulsed two hijacking attempts on merchant vessels there.

Experts say many attacks go unreported along Somalia’s 3,700-km (2,300-mile) coast where heavily-armed pirates operate high-powered speedboats.

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