March 10, 2011
Holding Sailors To Ransom !
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – Two years after India’s Supreme Court questioned government handling of high sea piracy involving Indian lives, protesters again drew attention this evening to the plight of seamen held hostage by Somalis in the Gulf of Aden.
”Kuchh nahin! Kuchh nahin! (nothing! nothing!),” was how Sampa Arya, wife of an Indian hostage described Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response to her pleadings to intervene in the situation.
An Egyptian cargo ship, Suez, was seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on August 2, 2010 despite barbed wire and fire hoses, not to mention three anti-piracy warships cruising within 40 miles.
The Panamanian-flagged ship with a crew of 24– six of them Indian– was eastbound towards the Suez Canal.
Wife of third officer Ravinder Singh Gulia, Mrs Arya broke down in a telephone interview when she was asked about any assurance she received from Dr Singh.
Sobbingly, she spoke of tortures inflicted on her husband and other hostages. ”They hit him on the knees. It is paralysing. He is not allowed even basics.”
Relatives and friends assembled at Jantar Mantar in the evening for a vigil discussed the passing deadline. The captors have demanded $4 million for release of the Indian hostages, they said.
”The deadline for Suez is over today. We are worried,” said second officer Akash Verma, adding with a touch of urgency that ”a solution must be found.”
Their key concern: the Indian authorities put pressure on the Egyptian owners of the cargo ship to pay up and free the hostages.
Barely a mile away, Parliament was told 49 ships were hijacked from international waters off the Indian Ocean in 2010 and that 38 Indian crew were still captive aboard four ships.
Answering Congress member from Kerala P J Kurien, Shipping Minister G K Vasan recited such steps as deploying naval ships, alerting other forces in the region and waging a multilateral campaign.
Three other ships Vasan listed: Iceberg-1 hijacked on March 29, 2010 with six Indian crew, Rak Afrikana, hijacked on April 11, 2010, with 11 Indian crew, and Asphalt Venture hijacked on September 29, 2010 with 15 Indian crew.
Somali acts have threatened international shipping over the past several years but experts say efforts to counter the sea brigands appear to suffer in more ways than one.
”The Somali situation does not seem to strictly qualify as piracy under the Law of the Sea convention 1982,” says former Additional Director General of Shipping and Nautical Adviser J S Gill, adding that the wording ”may hamper charging a person as a pirate.”
Mariners say Somali activity has spawned a whole new mostly-Western industry for insuring vessels at risk with ever-increasing premiums.
That and other factors such as the data intelligence Somalis seem to possess or lawyers quick to rise to their defence on arrest suggest a new dimension– of an ‘organised under-world.’
Far from being sea pirates hunting for victims, they sometimes seem well-informed about their potential targets to the point of knowing for instance the cargo on board and the exact number of hands a vessel set out with, seafarers say.
Seema Goyal, the wife of a former hostage, suggested the need to sanitise the Gulf of Aden– a suggestion echoed by several officers.
Captains I Solanki, T K Dhingra, P Sarin, P K Mittal and I Kharbanda stressed a cordon to ensure that brigands cannot come out to attack.
UNI MJ PS 0019
- After 2 years, Indian seamen still captives of Somali pirates (shippingtribune.com)
- Pirate attacks off Somalia plummet thanks to navies, armed guards (csmonitor.com)
- Pirates of the Gulf of Guinea – growing threat to economic and social security (ghanabusinessnews.com)
- EU Anti-Piracy Force Stops Gulf of Aden Attack (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- ‘Al Capone’ strategy to defeat piracy (telegraph.co.uk)
- Navies seek Jihadi “Pirate Cultural Adviser” (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- Unsafe Havens: Five Flights to Danger in Uncertain Economic Times (minyanville.com)
- Obama’s 5th War: Sends US Troops into ………. Africa (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- Rising from the ruins of Somalia – The Somaliland success story (newstimeafrica.com)
- Piracy in west Africa reaching dangerous proportions, says watchdog (guardian.co.uk)