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After terror at sea, tears of joy

After being terrorised at sea for nearly two months, 25 crew members of merchant vessel Biscaglia, which was captured by Somali pirates on November 28 at the Gulf of Aden, reached Mumbai on Friday to an emotional welcome from family and friends.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2009 13:36 IST
Gigil Varghese

It was a homecoming marked by tears, bear hugs and chilling memories.

After being terrorised at sea for nearly two months, 25 crew members of merchant vessel Biscaglia, which was captured by Somali pirates on November 28 at the Gulf of Aden, reached Mumbai on Friday to an emotional welcome from family and friends.

The vessel was released on January 23 after the pirates were paid a ransom.

US based shipping company Messers Ishima Pvt Ltd that owns the ship later organised a reunion for family members at the Hyatt Regency in Sahar.

Abhishek Kumar Singh, the second officer in charge on the Biscaglia, recalled the moments leading to the hijacking. “We knew we were passing through pirate-infested areas and had to be careful,” said the 28-year-old sailor from Jharkhand. “My instincts said something would go wrong but I never imagined the scale of the trauma we were about to face.”

“We noticed some fishing boats approaching us and in a matter of seconds they (the pirates) dropped the fishing rods and picked up guns,” he said. The pirates soon took over the Biscaglia.

“Some French and Indian navy helicopters followed us and the pirates took me and another sailor to the forefront of the ship and pointed an AK-47 at us,” he said. “I was so scared. Anything could have happened.”

The pirates then made the ship sail for three days to Kalula, at the northern coast of Somalia, about 200 nautical miles away. “We anchored at Kalula for two to three hours and later moved to Rascayser and finally to Eil on the eastern Coast of Somalia,” said Singh. “At Eil we saw seven ships anchored. One of the hijackers told me that they had hijacked all these ships.”

The pirates were very aggressive on the first three days, he said.

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