October 7, 2008
9 Hostages Sick Aboard Seized Ship: Kin
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – As many as nine of 22 hostage crew members aboard Stolt Valor have taken ill waiting for freedom from Somali captors holding out for a $2 million ransom, relatives said tonight.
The hostages, 18 of them Indian, have been running low on water and food in the captivity of Somali pirates who seized their Chemical tanker in the gulf of Aden on September 15.
In a telephone interview from Mumbai, Seema Goyal, wife of the tanker’s Captain, Prabhat Goyal, indicated ”no tangible headway” in the 23-day-old crisis.
She is visiting the key port city meeting Shipping officials– including Shipping Director General and Nautical Advisor M M Saggi– and addressing sailors’ unions and ”gathering support.”
Mrs Goyal, who addressed a rally organised by several seafarers unions, was handed over a petition for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging steps to ensure hostages’ safe return and preclude such acts.
On Tuesday, she met a Japanese Embassy official in New Delhi in an effort to build up pressure on the ship’s Japanese owners to secure a quick end to the crisis.
The Japanese-owned tanker flying the Hong Kong flag was on way to Mumbai from Houston in the United States when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on September 15.
The tanker is carrying phosphoric acid and lubricant oil for end-users, including Kandla-based Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited.’
Besides 18 Indians, the crew includes a Russian, a Bangladeshi and two Filipinos.
Mrs Goyal and other members of the group have been meeting Indian authorities– ministers, senior bureaucrats, politicians– to bring home the urgency of securing the sailors’ release.
They held a candle light vigil on Saturday night drawing attention to the seafarers’ plight.
The pirates had demanded $6 million– subsequently pared down to $2 million– for letting the ship sail.
Experts say much of the initiative in the matter rests with authorities in Hong Kong, where the ship is registered, or Japan, where the owners belong.
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