The remaining seven Indian crew members of the MV Asphalt Venture have been released by Somali pirates more than four years after the cargo ship was hijacked off the coast of Somalia.
The Panama-flagged Asphalt Venture with 15 crewmembers was pirated on September 28, 2010, approximately 100 nautical miles South-East of Dar Es Salaam in the Somali Basin. The vessel along with 8 crewmembers were released following the payment of ransom in April 2011, but pirates kept the seven remaining crew ashore in Somalia.
According to a statement from the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, established in 2010 to assist and support victims of maritime piracy and their families, the remaining seven crew were released following a “modest payment” covering the logistical and transport costs of the pirate group holding the men.
The seven crewmembers have been moved to Kenya and preparations are being made to return the men to Indian in the next few days.
Chairman of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP), Peter Swift, commented: “After more than 4 years in captivity we are delighted for them and their families after the terrible ordeal and hardship that they have suffered. The tremendous efforts and generous support of all those who helped to secure their release and safe return are greatly appreciated, including the team at Holman Fenwick Willan who stepped in on a pro bono basis to help make this happen.”
While piracy off the coast of Somali has dwindled in recent years primarily due to the role of international navies in the region and the use of armed guards onboard ships, Somali pirates are still holding seafarers hostage in hopes that one day a ransom will be paid. MPHRP notes that more than 30 seafarers and fishermen are still held hostage by Somali pirates.
“It is thought that the pirates hold these men in the mistaken belief that substantial money can be raised to pay a ransom, whereas, in fact, working to free these people are charitable organisations with very limited resources” MPHRP said in its statement announcing the release of the Asphalt Venture hostages”. “The United Nations and the international maritime community have called for their prompt release and for support and assistance to be given to them and their families.”
According to some reports, the release of the Asphalt Venture hostages means that there are no remaining crews from containerships, bulk carriers or tankers being held in Somalia.