Fate of Indians in hijacked UK ship uncertain
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Last Updated: Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 19:45
Mumbai: The fate of six Indian sailors in the hijacked British vessel St James Park remained uncertain today, two days after it was seized by pirates with authorities yet to establish any contact with the ship.

The shipping company, UK-based Zodiac Maritime Agencies, has been trying to contact the hijacked vessel but is yet to succeed as the pirates have switched off all communication devices, Director General of Shipping Lakshmi Venkatachalam said.

"The shipping company is unable to contact the vessel. We are in constant touch with the company. There is no news from the crew. The communication devices of the ship have been switched off," Venkatachalam said here.

The ship was hijacked a day after pirates released another vessel --Kota Wajar-- carrying three Indian sailors, after more than two months in captivity.

Pirates are now holding 45 crew members, including six Indians in the seized UK-flagged chemical tanker and a Panamanian carrier off the pirate-infested Somalia's coast.

So far, the pirates have not made any ransom demand or contacted the authorities, Venkatachalam said.

The vessel was sailing to Thailand from Spain with a chemical used to make plastics when it sent a distress signal from the Gulf of Aden.

After the incident, the vessel altered course and is now heading towards the northern coast of Somalia. St James Park had a crew of 26 and was hijacked while it was in the Gulf of Aden Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor.

"The vessel is now somewhere at a location off the Somalian coast. The shipping company has been trying to contact the vessel on its phone at regular intervals, but they are yet to establish any contact," said Capt M M Saggi, nautical advisor to the government of India.

The seized vessel had issued distress messages which were received by the Greek rescue and coordination centre in Piraeus, which relayed those to the International Maritime Bureau and other agencies yesterday.


First Published: Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 19:45

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