Fate of sailors hangs in pirates' hands
The fate of the 10 Indian sailors aboard the hijacked MV Victoria now depends on the whims of the Somali pirates’ clan leaders. Gigil Varghese reports.Updated: May 21, 2008, 08:42 IST
The fate of the 10 Indian sailors aboard the hijacked MV Victoria now depends on the whims of the Somali pirates’ clan leaders.
Warlords and militant clans, each of whom have a created a mini-state, lord it over the east African nation that has been in a state of anarchy since 1991. Authorities say they aren’t even sure which clan has hijacked Victoria. “In such cases, we speak to the clan leaders. If the pirates respect them, they let the ship go,” said Andrew Mwangura, head of the East Africa Seafarers’ Assistance Programme. He said the pirates sometimes
keep the crew and vessels hostage for 400 days.
Otherwise, it’s up to how much diplomatic pressure India can exert on the international community. India is the most powerful country among those whose sailors are on the Victoria. Among the 23 crew are Pakistanis, Burmese, Bangladeshis, Kenyans and Tanzanians.
Among the Indian sailors are Uttam Bhattacharjee, Sombir Kumar, Jayeshkumar Tandela, Naresh Tandel, Akhilesh Singh, Sadshiv Yadav, Chandrakant Tandel, Iman Ghosh and
“We suspect the hijackers are part of a group working under the name of ‘Somali Marines’,” said Mwangura. Victoria was hijacked on May 17 off Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, which is infamous for pirates. On May 20, it was anchored near Hobyo, 1.5 nautical miles north-east of Elmaan island, according to the Indian Director-General, Shipping.
“The [vessel is registered in Jordan, which] along with the ship operator is responsible for it under the International Safety Management Code,” said Natasha Brown, external relations officer, International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
“The ship managers say they haven’t received any communication from the hijackers. They are trying to contact them through the cargo consignees in Mogadishu,” said officers of the Director-General, Shipping.
The Maritime Liaison Office, commander of US naval forces and the Central Command, Bahrain, have promised to help. The Indian Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), Mumbai, has contacted search-and-rescue agencies in Yemen, Seychelles and Norway to furnish updates. Indian authorities are also trying to find out what Jordan’s ministry is doing to free the sailors.
The IMO had earlier asked the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to allow warships in its waters to help fight pirates. The IMO also asked that warships be allowed to escort ships delivering aid to Somalia under the World Food Programme.