M V Cotton released by pirates; all 24 Indian sailors safe

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Mumbai, July 22: Pirates, who took over the Turkish tanker M V Cotton, have left the vessel a week after it was hijacked off the coast of Gabon in Africa with the entire Indian crew comprising 24 sailors safe, officials said on Monday.

"M V Cotton, which had been hijacked off the coast of Gabon in Africa, has been released after the pirates disembarked. All the sailors are safe," a senior official from the Director General of Shipping (DGS) said here.

When asked if any ransom was paid to secure the release, the DGS official said he did not have any more information at this point of time and added that the regulator is in touch with the ship's owner. A senior official from V-Ships, which was the crew management firm hired by the Turkish ship operator Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati AS 'Geden Line', also confirmed the development.

"The pirates have disembarked from the vessel and all the sailors are safe. The sailors continue to be on the vessel itself," the official said. All the crew members have spoken to their respective families back home, the official said. When asked if the sailors will return to the country, the official declined to comment saying that the sailors continue to be on the vessel.

The partially loaded, 184-metre long M V Cotton with a gross tonnage of 23,248 tonnes, was boarded by suspected pirates while awaiting berthing at Gabon's Gentil Port at 0453 hours GMT on July 15. The vessel was in the anchorage off the Gentil Port, waiting for its turn to berth and load some cargo when the incident happened.

In a statement, the shipping company had called it as an "unusual" incident as the region does not witness any such activity normally. For at least three days, contact could not be established between the vessel or the pirates, according to the vessel operator.

According to an industry expert, if not cash, pirates may have taken some of the cargo on the vessel as gangs operating in the western coast of Africa are known to be interested in cargo material.

PTI

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