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Hijacked ship reaches Kenya minus crew members

April 28, 2011 21:00 IST

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 Mombasa 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 on Thursday. "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 taking every effort to get them home at the earliest," it added. Earlier, Shipping minister G K 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.

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