[NMS Note: This article identifies the pirates as “Somali”, which is clearly a typing error.]
By Leon Berenger
A group of 14 Sri Lankan seamen on board a vessel that was ransacked on the high seas by suspected Somali pirates late last month, are to return to the country sometime on Wednesday, a maritime official said yesterday. The Sri Lankans, part of a larger crew of 19 that included four Poles and a Russian, were attacked on April 28, as they sailed through the Gulf of Guimus, Sampath Waduge with ‚ÄúLauterjung‚Äù, the local handling agent for the vessel and crew, told the Sunday Times.
He said the pirates had grabbed the non-Sri Lankan crew and removed them to a safe house somewhere on the Tanzanian border, or else, were holding them on a boat in the vicinity.‚ÄúThe Sri Lankan crew was spared, but not before the pirates removed cash and other belongings from them. The pirates were holding the four Polish seamen and the Russian, while negotiating a ransom demand with the vessel‚Äôs owner in Germany‚Äù, Mr Waduge said.
He added that a fresh crew was being readied to leave for the vessel on Tuesday, and that, the 14 currently on board would be compensated on their return. The Antigua Barbados flagged ‚ÄúCity of Xiamen‚Äù is currently in out-anchorage in Malabo on the Tanzanian coast. It was heading for the Onne seaport in Nigeria, when the incident took place
International Transport workers Federation (ITF) was in regular contact with the ship‚Äôs owner in Germany, as well as with the local handler in Colombo, in a bid to determine the welfare and wellbeing of the Sri Lankan seamen. ‚ÄúIt is encouraging to note that the Lankans are safe and would be returning to the country at the earliest. It was earlier feared that the five seamen taken away by the pirates were Sri Lankans‚Äù, local ITF Inspector Ranjan Perera said.
‚ÄúAt present, we have another group of seven Sri Lankan seamen currently held by the Somali pirates for the past two years, and talks for their release to date has remained futile,‚Äù he added. He also called on Lankan seafarers to refrain from boarding foreign vessels that do not have adequate security facilities.
‚ÄúToday, the bulk of commercial ships recruit heavily armed personnel, also known as Sea Marshals, when sailing through known pirate areas. With the deployment of these Sea Marshals, there has been a sharp drop in pirate activity‚Äù, Mr. Perera added.