The Indian Navy rescued 26 people, including 11 Indians on-board a sinking merchant vessel with the help of an Italian warship after they were released by Somali pirates following a ransom payment. After being in captivity in Somalia since April last year, MV RAK Africana, a ship owned by captain Ajay Kotwal, could not sail out of the Somali coast on March 9 because of engine problems, Navy officials said.
The ship had sought help from the director general of shipping, which in turn requested the Navy for rendering assistance to Africana's crew. "Recognising the condition of the crew, the Indian Navy launched an all-out effort to coordinate rescue of the crew. But, in the meanwhile, they received information that the ship had started taking in water because of a hole in the hull," said an official.
The Indian Navy sounded an alert to all other navies operating in the vicinity, and requested them to render immediate assistance to MV RAK Africana. "We contacted the UK Maritime Trade Organisation in Dubai, Combined Maritime Forces headquarters in Bahrain, European Union Naval Force Somalia headquarters in London and intimated the distress situation to them," they said.
Responding to the Safety of Life at Sea alert by the Navy, an Italian warship Zeffiro arrived at the scene and coordinated the action to rescue the crew on March 9. The crew included 11 Indian sailors along with six Pakistanis and eight Tanzanian nationals.