Indian seafarers reach Mumbai after being released by Somali pirates

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Mumbai, Feb.18 (ANI): As Somali pirates released a Panamanian-flagged ship on Tuesday that carried a crew of 26, most of whom Indians, eight of the released seafarers reached Mumbai city and re-united with their families on Thursday (February 18).

The European Union naval mission in the region confirmed that the vessel was set free after the Somali pirates received a ransom of 3.1 million dollars on Tuesday (February 16) for a Panama-flagged ship, which they hijacked in October.

The name of the vessel was not immediately clear, but a regional maritime source said it was believed to be the M.V. Al Khaliq, thought to be carrying 24 Indians and two Burmese crew.

Ritesh Kumar Ashoke Sudan, captain of M.V. Al Khaliq, said that the crew members were not harmed but the atmosphere was far from friendly.

"It was tense atmosphere because we were under pressure of arms and ammunition, but they did not bodily harm us. They just wanted the money; they were pirates and were just concerned with the money," said Sudan.

The General Secretary of the National Union of Seafarers of India, Abdulgani Y Serang, blamed foreign governments of not lending any support to the release of the crew held up by the Somali pirates.

"For the government, for the world over, the seafarers have just become statistics. So, this is what we want to show to the world that we have had enough, the seafarers, the Indonesians, Philippines, Indians - the major labour-supplying unions - they are getting in touch with the seafarers and very soon we are going to announce a date. After that date, if the situation does not improve, the labour-supplying...the seafarers from the labour-supplying unions from world over, particularly from Asia, they are not going to trade in the pirate-infested area of Somalia," said Serang.

Negotiations for the release of the M.V. Al Khaliq had been going on for weeks. The vessel was loaded with wheat when it was seized on October 22, west of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

The number of piracy attacks worldwide leapt almost 40 percent last year, with gunmen from Somalia accounting for more than half the 406 reported incidents, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Typically, heavily-armed Somali pirates hold captured ships and their crews hostage until large ransoms are paid.

In 2009, there were 406 reported incidents globally, in which 153 vessels were boarded and 49 were hijacked. 84 vessels suffered attempted attacks and 120 were fired upon. A total of 1,052 crew were taken hostage with 68 crewmembers getting injured and 8 killed.

Out of these, Somali pirates were responsible for 217 acts of piracy in 2009 alone, during which 47 vessels were hijacked and 867 crewmembers taken hostage.

Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal. (ANI)

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