Mumbai: With the fate of the seven crew members of Panama-flagged carrier MT Asphalt Venture still hanging in balance, the National Union of Seafarers of India
(NUSI) on Saturday demanded that the owners of the ship initiate steps to ensure release of the seafarers.
The Somali pirates, after initially agreeing to release 15 crew members of the vessel, which was abducted in September 2010, freed only 8 of them despite the owners paying them a multi-million dollar ransom, in retaliation for the
arrest of their men by Indian Navy.
The Navy had rescued 16 crew members --12 Iranians and four Pakistanis -- of a hijacked Iranian trawler `Morteza`, west of the Lakshadweep Islands in March this year.
The NUSI`s appeal came in the background of the statement of the Panama-flagged carrier that said, "The pirates were no longer interested in negotiating for ransom but wanted to deal with someone who can negotiate a prisoner transfer."
"Owners are in no position to negotiate what is now fundamentally a political situation, as the pirates will not deal with them and they have no mandate to discuss swapping those being held in Indian jails with anyone. Owners are in an
impossible situation and one where only the Government of India can take leadership," it said.
Condemning the stand of the owners, NUSI general secretary Abdulgani Serang said, "The owners are shirking away from their responsibility of ensuring safety of the seafarers.
By attempting to pass off the same entirely to the Government will not be tolerated. The owners should ensure that the seven seafarers reunite with their families at the earliest."