Some good news on the MT Cotton, the Maltese-flagged tanker which was hijacked last week off the coast of Gabon. The crew of 24 has been released. For this, should all be thankful.
However, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea remains an international menace and it is incumbent upon the international community (US, EU, China, Russia… I’m looking at you!) to implement the same counter-piracy measures for West African littoral that have been so successful along the East Africa coast.
Nigerian pirates release 24 crew members, but ransack tanker
Twenty-four Indian crew members of MT Cotton, a tanker, which was hijacked by Nigerian pirates off the coast of Gabon, Africa, last week, were released on Monday. The crew, which includes sailors from Mumbai, is expected to reach India in two weeks’ time.
Director-General of Shipping, Gautam Chatterjee said, “MT Cotton was released at 8.30 am IST on Monday. All crew members are safe and no one is in need of immediate medical attention. However, pirates have looted the crew. Right from valuables to food, medicines, even their clothes and footwear were not spared. The pirates also escaped with 3,100 metric tonnes of crude fuel of the total 10,000 metric tonnes in the ship. Presently, the vessel has been instructed by the owners to sail westwards and away from the coast.”
The shipping ministry is unaware of whether a ransom was paid for the crew’s release. “We were really worried since all crew members were Indians. The ship was captained by Shishir Wahi,” said a ministry official.
The tanker – mainly used for ferrying crude petroleum, is owned by a Turkish company, ‘Genel’, and the crew was manned by a company called ‘V Ships’. All crew members have spoken to their respective families, the official said, adding that the sailors were still on the vessel.
The partially-loaded tanker – with a capacity of 23,248 tonnes – was boarded by pirates while awaiting its turn to berth at Gabon’s Gentil Port for the loading of cargo on July 15. Worried officials of the shipping ministry had been trying to establish contact with the tanker for the past three days, according to the vessel operator.
Crew of 2 ships in custody of somali pirates for 2 years
Meanwhile, the shipping ministry said thatseven crew members of the ship Asphalt Venture and a member of the ship Albido continue to be in the custody of Somalian pirates for the past two years. Shipping ministry sources said that a ransom of $3 million had been sought for the release of the crew of Asphalt Venture, while the pirates had demanded $ 0.5 million for the release of the crew member from Albido.