26 people including 11 Indians on-board a sinking merchant vessel were rescued by the Indian Navy with the help of an Italian warship after they were released by Somali pirates following payment of ransom.
After being in captivity in Somalia since April last year, MV RAK Africana, a ship owned by Captain Ajay Kotwal, could not sail out of Somali coast on March 9 because of engine problems, navy officials said here.
The ship had sought help from Director General of Shipping which in turn requested the Navy for rendering assistance to Africana's crew.
"Recognising the condition of the crew, the Indian Navy launched an all out effort to co ordinate rescue of the crew. But, in the meanwhile information was received that the ship had started taking in water due to a hole in the hull," they said.
An alert was immediately sounded by Indian Navy to all other navies operating in the vicinity who were requested to render immediate assistance to MV RAK Africana.
"Contact was established with the UK Maritime Trade Organisation in Dubai, Combined Maritime Forces HQ in Bahrain, EUNAVFOR HQ in London and the distress situation on MV RAK Africana was intimated," they said.
Responding to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) alert by the Navy, an Italian warship Zeffiro arrived at the scene and coordinated the action to rescue the crew of RAK Africana commencing 2000 hours on March 9.
Following advise from the Indian Navy, Africana's crew disembarked from it using lifeboats and were recovered by Zeffiro.
The crew of the Africana included 11 Indian sailors along with six Pakistanis and eight Tanzanian nationals.