Hijacked ship reaches Kenya without remaining crew members

After waiting in vain for about a fortnight in Somalian waters for release of seven members still held hostage by Somalian pirates, Indian freighter Asphalt Venture with its eight freed crew reached Mobasa in Kenya.

Last Updated: Apr 28, 2011, 22:17 PM IST

New Delhi: After waiting in vain for
about a fortnight in Somalian waters for release of seven
members still held hostage by Somalian pirates, Indian
freighter Asphalt Venture with its eight freed crew on Thursday
reached Mobasa in Kenya.

The vessel, in close consultation with Indian
authorities, remained in Somalian waters since release of
eight crew by the pirates on April 15 in the hope that the
remaining seven crew members taken ashore by the pirates would
be released after the seven-month ordeal, OMCI Ship Management
that owns the bitumen carrier said.

"To remain in these waters longer would have been
dangerous for both the vessel and the remaining crew members.
With the arrival of the vessel in Mombasa, the Master and 7
crew members on-board can be sent home and can return to their
families," it said.

Somali pirates who took a multi-million dollar ransom
for the hijacked Indian freighter had released eight of the 15
Indian crew members held hostage on September 28, 2010. The
asphalt/bitumen tanker was on its way to South Africa from
Kenya.

However, the remaining crew members were still held
hostage despite the reported deal for release of entire crew,
the first such case where the sea brigands did not honour the
agreement despite an undisclosed amount being paid as ransom.

The owners said the vessel came to Kenya today.

"With the engineering officers still in captivity and
no engine power, the vessel proceeded slowly under tug tow and
under escort of an Indian Naval frigate out of Somali waters,"
the statement added.

Disappointed over non-release of the remaining crew,
the company said it is now working in close cooperation with
all the appropriate authorities to ensure the safe return of
those still in captivity.

"Our thoughts are with the families of those who have
not yet returned and we are making every effort to get them
home at the earliest," it added.

Earlier, Shipping Minister GK Vasan said the
government is taking all steps to check such incidents and
seek safe release of the captives.

Indian warships have been escorting merchant vessels
in the Indian ocean as part of international anti-piracy
efforts and the country`s Navy and Coast Guard have seized
around 120 pirates, mostly Somali nationals, over the past few
months.

Last month, the Indian navy captured 61 pirates when
they attacked a naval ship.

Pirates currently hold some 30 ships and more than 600
hostages.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi had said
on April 18 that saving the lives of Indians held hostage by
Somali pirates would be the guiding concern of the government
when it decides on taking appropriate action.

PTI