New Delhi, Nov 25 (UNI) Back home after a 63-day ordeal, captain of the hijacked Japanese ship Stolt Valor, Captain Prabhat Goyal today said it was not an isolated case and called upon Governments to act fast to put an end to piracy, even if it required hot pursuit.
He said the Gulf of Aden is a strategic route which is used by about 8000 vessels in a year. ''Ships from all countries, whether East or West of the Gulf of Aden, use the route. Any deviation from the route will cost shipping companies a huge amount, which will in turn push up freight rates. "It will affect each one of us," he said, while pointing out that about 80 to 90 per cent of the cargo moves by containers on that route.
He said installation of an effective government in Somalia was needed to end piracy, but as a short term measure, hot pursuit was the best bet. "There are no laws and nobody can help you there. We were just on our own." "Our Navy has done a brilliant job by blasting off a mother ship.
Intensive patrolling is needed and I am glad that other navies the French, British, Malaysian and Russian are chipping in too,'' he said, addressing a press conference here.
Calling for a complete sanitisation of Somalian waters, he said the piracy menace had raised its head in 2007 and many vessels have been abandoned. ''These vessels are now being used by the pirates to hijack other ships. Even now there is a Turkish ship being held hostage in Somali waters, with three women on board, most probably wives of officers.'' He said the Saudi Arabian tanker with three lakh tonne oil was also being held by the pirates.
The Captain and six of his crew members had arrived from Muscat early today after being freed by Somali pirates on November 16.
Describing his experience as ''unimaginable'', Capt Goyal said "We were tortured mentally. Every minute the sword of death hung over heads. Many a time we had just given up hope that we would come back alive. But we are glad that in the end, we are back home safe.'' He, however, said he was ready to sail and will do so without fears. When asked if his wife would let him do so, he jokingly said, "Now she may say no, but after five to six months, she will not let me stay home. I need to go sailing for financial considerations." Recalling an instance, when he was forced to get off the ship, he said, "I clung onto a railing of the ship even they continuously fired from their machine guns. The shots came from all over, but did not hit me. My crew had started crying loudly, and did not know what to do. But later, the pirates took me back on the ship.'' He said there were about 52 pirates on board, of whom only three to four had interest in fishing. "The rest seemed to be trained in arms as they did not let go off their weapons when they went to toilet.'' The Captain, however, said the crew had taken claim of one part of the ship and did not let the pirates use their toilets or acess their stores. "We did not even let them have a single tea bag. They managed their food from the shores.'' He also said communication was a big problem as they had destroyed all satellite connections.
"So with one mobile phone of one of the pirates, I had to keep searching for signals to establish contact with the negotiators and our ship management." He thanked the Government for all its help. ''Today, I am proud to be Indian,'' mused the emotional Captain.
He also thanked the ship's owners, its management and the media for the support.
He especially acknowledged his wife Seema's efforts in bringing the hijack issue to the fore.
"Until now, all sea farers were suffering silently. Now it has become an issue which is being taken up worldwide. Otherwise, though the sea farers faced this problem, nobody paid any attention." The ship was hijacked by Somali pirates on September 15 and the crew was kept hostage for over two months until a ransom of 2.5 million USD was reportedly paid by the owners of the vessel. The cargo vessel was finally freed on November 16.
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