The International Chamber of Shipping, ITF, Indian National Shipowners’ Association, NUSI, MUI, IMEC, InterManager, Intertanko and BIMCO deplore the latest development in the Indian Ocean piracy crisis as some Indian crew members of a released merchant ship are retained ashore in Somalia.
The Asphalt Venture, a 1991 built asphalt/bitumen tanker was hijacked by Somali pirates on September 28th 2010 and, following a ransom payment, the ship was released on April 15. Despite the owners’ concluding a dialogue with the pirates for the full release of 15 crew and vessel and payment of the ransom, the vessel was released but the Master has reported that 6 officers and 1 rating were taken off the tanker and made to accompany the pirates ashore.
In subsequent press reports it is suggested that pirates in Harardhere have taken the decision not to honour the agreement made but to prolong the hostage ordeal of the 7 seafarers in retaliation for the arrest of Somali pirates by the Indian Navy in recent weeks.
This is a fundamental change to previous practice and moves the issue from being just between the shipowner and the pirates to being between the pirates and a government. It is a major shift in the pirate-hostage equation which will need to be considered and addressed by the international community.
Our thoughts are very much with these seafarers and their families as well as with all the other seafarers who are being held by the Somali pirates and with their families. As the state of lawlessness spirals downward in the Indian Ocean and the level of violence that pirates are prepared to use to coerce seafarers and to influence the hostage negotiation increases, this breach of the ransom agreement sets a precedent that is of the utmost concern.
The international and national representative organizations are gravely concerned with this new development as international governments continue to fail to adequately respond to this 21st century example of organized and violent criminality that threatens the safe passage of world trade through the region, where 40% of the world’s oil is transported, and which may lead to increases in oil prices.