New Delhi, Mar 10 (ANI): With the release of the RAK Afrikana, held by Somali pirates with 11 Indian sailors among its crew, the number of Indian sailors held by Somali pirates is now 53.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) today informed that the Indian sailors had been held during the capture of the ships including MV Iceberg - Panamian Flag, MV Suez - Panamian Flag, MT Asphalt Venture - Panamian Flag, MT Savina Caylyn - Italian Flag and MV Sinin - Panamian Flag.
The MEA release said that the UN Security Council and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are working on prevention, guidance, reporting and cooperation to mitigate piracy.
"One Indian naval ship has been deployed in the Gulf of Aden to escort Indian shipping interests since 2008. Following recent incidents of pirate attacks closer to Indian western shores, the Indian Navy has increased its vigil and neutralized two pirate "mother ships" and captured 43 pirates," it added.
The MEA release further said that the Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India has issued numerous advisories, circulars and notices on the recommended traffic corridors, protocol with Indian naval ships, precautions to be taken and areas to be avoided.
"It is also necessary for flag States to be accountable and persuade the ships owners to expedite conclusion of negotiations with pirates so that seafarers are released quickly," it adds.
The MEA said the nodal Indian agencies/Ministries dealing with the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia are Ministry of Shipping [Director General, Shipping] and the Ministry of Defence [Indian Navy and Coast Guard]. The main point of contact with the ship owners is Director General, Shipping, who remains in constant touch with the owners/management of the ship in order to secure the release of Indian crew members.
The Ministry of External Affairs comes into the picture where the ship owners/management is based in a foreign country. MEA in such cases has assisted by taking up the matter with local governments to expedite negotiations between the owners/management of the ship and the pirates.
"As a result of such efforts, 21 Indian nationals held on merchant ships were released in 2008, 34 in 2009, 56 in 2010 and 13 in 2011 bringing the total number of sailors that have been released to 124. 53 Indian sailors who were crew members of hijacked ships seized by pirates are presently held in captivity," it said.
" In most cases, ships on which Indian crew members are held in captivity have crew members of other nationalities also. For instance, MV Iceberg has 9 Yemenis, 6 Indians, 1 Filipino, 4 Ghanians, 2 Sudanese and 2 Pakistanis, all held by the pirates. MV Suez has 6 Indians, 11 Egyptians, 4 Pakistanis and 1 Sri Lankan, all held by pirates," it added.
The MEA said in the case of all five ships that are presently held by pirates with Indian crew members, Indian Missions and Posts concerned have been in regular touch with the ship owners and with the Governments of countries, where these ship owners are based, to secure the release of our nationals.
"Indian Ambassador in Cairo and Consul General in Dubai are also working energetically with their counterparts from other countries whose crew members have been held by the pirates in order to intensify efforts to secure the release of crew held in these ships, expeditiously," it added. (ANI)