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Negotiator to secure release of hijacked ship

Last updated on: September 18, 2008 21:53 IST

The owners of the ship hijacked by pirates to Somalia on Thursday said all 22 crew members, including 18 Indians, were safe and a professional negotiator had been hired to secure their release.

The ship, hijacked on September 15, is currently anchored at Eyl in Somalia.

"The crew have been confined to the wheelhouse of the ship and are allowed to attend to their daily needs, but watched closely by the hijackers," the owners said in a statement in Mumbai.

The master of the ship Captain Prabhat Kumar Goyal had sent information regarding the vessel's status to the owners through e-mail and a brief phone call around afternoon.

Goyal also spoke briefly with his family in Dehradun they said.

Somalian authorities have confirmed the presence of the ship at the Eyl port, sources said in Mumbai.

Panama-based Ocean Transit Carriers are the owners of the vessel, which bears a Hong Kong flag and was carrying petrol products from Suez to Mumbai when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.

Following one more hijacking of a Greek operated bulk carrier on Thursday -- the 13th in the Somali waters in the last two months -- the International Maritime Bureau has floated an advisory asking carriers to maintain at least 250 nautical miles distance from the Somali coast while navigating through the Gulf of Aden.

The vessel was in the designated safety corridor area recommended by the International Coalition of Warships entrusted with the safety of vessels in the area, the owners said.

The master had also steered to the northern end of the corridor as far away from Somalian waters as possible despite which the hijacking took place, they said.

A cadet on-board had made a call informing the ship's agent in Singapore that at least 15 pirates had boarded the vessel.

This year, 55 vessels have been hijacked by Somalian pirates so far.

The Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, is one of the world's busiest waterways with some 20,000 ships passing through it each year.

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