Unknown to the pirates, a tiny instrument on board the hijacked Stolt Valor kept negotiators many miles away informed on the ship’s position and the direction in which it was sailing, if it was sailing at all.
Every 30 minutes, the instrument sent out a pre-recorded message — like an SMS — to two sets of people in Hong Kong: the ship’s agents Fleet Management Limited and the authority with which the vessel was registered.
“It was a huge help during negotiations,” Mayank Mishra, security officer with Fleet Management, told the Hindustan Times from Hong Kong on Sunday.
The pirates once told the negotiators the ship had been moved five miles away to be blown off. “Of course, we knew it hadn’t moved at all,” said Mishra. “We figured they were bluffing us.”
The helpful instrument is Ship Security Alert System or SSAS. Mishra refused to divulge more for security reasons.
The shipowners, managers and negotiators knew all through the crisis where Stolt Valor was at all time.
The ship was anchored at the port of Eyl — the negotiators knew exactly where. The BBC had this to say in a recent article on Somalian pirates: “Eyl has become a town tailor-made for pirates — and their hostages.”
Also unknown to the pirates was a deep freezer. As the ship stayed docked at Eyl, hordes of pirates would come on board every day to raid its well-stocked kitchen.
They had almost emptied the kitchen when the crew decided to do something about it. They took the remaining stock of rice and chicken to the deep freezer. For some strange reason, the pirates never looked there.
Mishra said there would be 40 or 45 pirates on the ship all the time – walking around, guarding the crew or just lazing around on the deck. “Strange that they missed it,” he said.
That food is now coming in handy as the ship makes it way out of the Somalian waters. There is only two days’ food in stocks, but that should last the crew long enough to get them to international waters.
Once the ship is safely out, the crew will get all the help they need from other ships in the area. An Indian Navy ship has been patrolling the area and rescued two ships from pirates earlier this week.