It was a battle of nerves and wit and Capt. Prabhat Goyal carried home the trophy — 1,000 Somali shillings and a carton of cigarettes.
“I somehow managed it. Not just 1,000 shillings, I also took a carton of Royals brand of cigarettes from the gun-wielding pirates,” he said, flaunting the currency note. At the current exchange rate, 29.1 Somali shillings are equal to a rupee.
Goyal, who arrived at the Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport early Tuesday with six Stolt Valor crew from Muscat, said he virtually “had pirates begging” for water, teabags and other stuff.
“After some days, we found that they were using our things. We started hiding our stuff. The pirates got desperate — they started using water from toilets for tea,” said the captain, who along with 17 other Indians was held captive by the Somali pirates on board the Stolt Valor for 64 days in the Gulf of Aden.
The crew, however, were “soft” on the negotiator, a Somali and their “only hope of freedom”. “We took good care of him. Gave him a mattress, pillow and linen to sleep on,” he said.
The negotiator spoke broken English and always carried a dictionary. “He would look up the dictionary, write down the demand or whatever he wanted to tell us on a piece of paper. We then conveyed the message to the owners.”
Goyal refused to disclose the ransom amount paid to the pirates. “It is highly confidential. But, let me tell you, I counted and handed over the money to the pirates. The money was airdropped,” he said.
Goyal did manage to score a few points on the pirates. “I used to lie still and pretend I was unconscious. The pirates got scared not because they cared but because they thought the owners won’t pay the ransom if something would happen to any of the crew,” he said.
On a serious note, the captain said he would give his inputs to the intelligence agencies on piracy in the Gulf of Aden. “There are some things which I feel the government should know. I can even identify the pirates,” he said.
At a news conference, when Goyal was asked if he would go back to the sea. His reply were the famous lines of Robert Frost’s poem: The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
“I don’t run after money but there are financial limitations. My wife (Seema Goyal) might say no now but after five-six months she would be the one sending me on the ship,” he said.