Seven Indian seafarers held hostage by pirates in Somalia for more than four years have been released. (source: IHS Maritime 360)
The men are the remaining crew members of the Panama-flagged 3, 884dwt general cargo ship Asphalt Venture, which was hijacked on 28 September 2010. In April 2011 eight of the crew, along with the vessel, were released, leaving seven men detained ashore.
A statement from the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) said the release was achieved by “lengthy negotiations” and a “modest payment” to cover “the logistical and transport costs of the group holding the men”.
The seven, who are currently staying at a hotel in Nairobi, will be returned to India “in the next few days”, said MPHRP, which has informed the men’s families.
MPHRP thanked a team at legal firm Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) “who stepped in on a pro bono basis to help make [the release] happen”.
Speaking to IHS Maritime, HFW partner James Gosling said the main role of the legal firm was to look after the “compliance and regulatory side” of the situation.
Emphasising that the payment made was for expenses (and not a ransom), he further explained: “You can’t pay terrorists but you can pay criminals, so you have to make sure that that is done correctly, ” said Gosling, who added that they had to prove “there is no reasonable cause to suspect [the criminals] are terrorists”.
“You don’t have to prove anything. You just have to show that there is no reasonable cause to suspect, ” he went on, adding that to pay terrorists is a criminal offence.
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Still held hostage in Somalia are 30 seafarers and fishers, who have awaited their freedom, some for between four and a half and just more than two and a half years.
MPHRP said the charitable organisations working for their release have “very limited resources”, but that the pirates are holding them “in the mistaken belief that substantial money can be raised to pay a ransom”.