The Nigerian pirates who took five Indian seafarers hostage last month have demanded $1 million to release them. They made a ransom call to one of the victim’s families in Haryana’s Jind district three days ago.
“At first I thought they said $1,000 and thought we could manage the amount and get them released. But one of the pirates repeated his demand as $1 million,” Bharat Deshwal, cousin of Ankit Hooda, one of the abducted seamen, told TOI over phone from Rohtak.
Ankit was a seaman on Greek motor tanker ship MT Apecus when the pirates struck on the outer anchorage of Bonny Island of Nigeria on April 19. Captain and six other crew members were taken hostage. Five of them are from India.
Bharat said the pirates used a satellite phone to speak to them. One of them spoke in English. “The pirates reportedly kept the five seamen at an undisclosed location. We were allowed to speak to four of them on the phone. At least, we know that they are with them,” Bharat said, adding that he could not speak to the fifth sailor, who is possibly from Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam.
The pirates allowed Ankit to speak to his family, while giving the impression that time was running out. “The pirate told us that neither the owner of the ship (from Greece), nor the Indian embassy tried contacting them on behalf of the families,” Bharat said.
Later in the conversation, the pirate who demanded a ransom of $1 million said they were even willing to accept half a million dollars. However, they did not give any details on how the transaction could take place. Bharat said they are yet to get any intimation from the Indian high commission in Abuja, Nigeria.
Ankit’s family has been desperately trying to get in touch with the government to get him and others released. They also conveyed details of the phone call to the office of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and expressed an interest to meet her personally.
Meanwhile, the high commission has informed Swaraj that it is following it up with the Nigerian government to get the seafarers released. “We have reiterated vigorously to the presidency, foreign minister and interior minister. Security forces are deployed, while ensuring safety of hostages in southern Nigeria. Other parties are also in touch. We are hopeful and will follow up,” the high commission tweeted in response to Swaraj asking for a report on the situation.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, on May 20, said it is making efforts to get the Indian seamen released.
Navy Rescues Crew From Burning Fishing Vessel
The Nigerian Navy Command says its gallant personnel rescued three Beninoise nationals from a burning fishing vessel that caught fire at the Lagos anchorage, recently.
Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, made this known in a statement.
The FOC said the crew members were rescued by the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BINI after a distress call was sent out past midnight, on April 21.
According to him, on arrival at the scene, the fishing boat was completely engulfed by fire with one of the rescued crew members, Yoes Senovou, severely burnt in the incident.
He said the crew members who could not communicate in English were given first aid at the Naval Base where they were stabilized, while Senovou was taken to the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital, Ojo, for treatment.
“NNS BINI, while on routine patrol, responded to a distress call from a boat with call sign Sport Tail shortly after midnight on 21st April 2020 within the Lagos anchorage area.
“On arrival at the scene, a fishing boat was completely engulfed by fire. Three crew members, all Beninoise nationals, were rescued from the water and handed over to NNS Beecroft. They were given first aids at the Naval Base and stabilized.
“But one of the rescued crew members, Mr. Yoes Senovou, was badly burnt in the fire incident. He was promptly taken to the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital, Ojo, where he was treated.
“It was not immediately clear why they were fishing in Nigerian waters, if indeed they were truly fishing. Although none of the crew members could communicate in English, they gestured that they had machinery failure and drifted into Nigerian waters”, the FOC said in the statement.
Daji said efforts were ongoing to hand over the rescued persons to the Benin Republic Consulate in Lagos, if they are not implicated in any criminal activity.
Unpaid Allowances:Dock Workers Shut Operations At PTOL
Aggrieved members of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) on Wednesday shut down operational activities at Ports Terminal Operators Limited (PTOL) located at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Port Harcourt Complex, over unpaid allowances.
The angry protesters also demanded for the removal of the Acting General Manager of the company, Mr. Mac Pherson, due to his alleged insensitivity to the plights of casual workers.
The protest which started at 8.am saw the gate of PTOL besieged by angry dockworkers who carried placards with bold inscriptions: “Pay us our allowances and we want the AGM removed”.
The protest forced the firm to shut down operations as over 100 dockworkers stormed the company’s premises, chanting labour slogans.
Our correspondent, who monitored the protest reports that the aggrieved workers forced their way into the company’s premises and disrupted its operations.
The angry workers blocked the main gate of the firm and prevented movement of persons and vehicular activities to and from the company.
There was, however, huge presence of armed policemen to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
Although the protesting workers declined to speak to the press, they insisted on the payment of their allowances and the removal of the company’s acting general manager.
Attempts to also speak with the management of the firm proved abortive as none was handy to comment on the development.
Stories by Chinedu Wosu
‘Pirates Abduct 22 Seafarers, Attack 37 Vessels In Four Months’
A global maritime reporting centre, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), said a total of 22 seafarers were abducted by pirates and 37 vessels attacked in the first quarter of 2020.
The Bureau said it received reports of 47 attacks in the first three months of this year, with the Gulf of Guinea remaining the world’s piracy hotspot.
This is as IBM said, many incidents remain unreported even as seafarers were advised to remain vigilant at all times.
The Bureau’s 24-hour Piracy Reporting Centre disclosed this in a statement made available to The Tide.
The centre said, it recorded 21 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in the first three months of this year, explaining that 12 were on vessels underway at an average of 70 nautical miles off the coast.
Armed perpetrators are targeting all vessel types. They approach in speedboats, boarding ships in order to steal stores or cargo and abduct crew members to demand a ransom, IBM said.
The Bureau explained further that the 17 crew members were kidnapped in three incidents in the Gulf of Guinea waters, at distances of between 45 and 75 nautical miles from the coast; 10 vessels were fired upon worldwide for the whole of 2019, with four already reported being fired at within Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the first quarter of 2020.
This, according to IBM, includes a container ship underway around 130 nm southwest of Brass.
The report said another container ship was boarded by pirates in another incident around 102 nm northwest of Sao Tome Island.
Speaking on the report, IMB Director, Michael Howlett, said: “Navy patrols, onboard security measures, cooperation and transparent information exchange between authorities, are all factors which help address the crimes of piracy and armed robbery.
“The threat to crew is, however, still real – whether from violent gangs, or opportunistic armed thieves inadvertently coming face-to-face with the crew. Ships’ masters must continue to follow industry best practice diligently and maintain watches.
“Early detection of an approaching pirate skiff is often key to avoiding an attack.”
The piracy report shows zero hijackings in the last two quarters and no incidents around Somalia.
In Indonesia, five anchored vessels were reported boarded by pirates, and five ships boarded while underway in the Singapore Straits.
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