Industry raises alarm as pirates retain hostages despite ransom delivery


The industry has expressed disdain at the continued detention of seven Indian seafarers in Somalia, despite the payment of a ransom, in a move which represents a major shift in expected practices between vessel owners and pirates.


In a joint statement, the International Chamber of Shipping, ITF, Indian National Shipowners’ Association, NUSI, MUI, IMEC, InterManager, Intertanko and BIMCO condemned the actions of the pirates, who captured the 1991 built asphalt/bitumen tanker The Asphalt Venture on September 28th 2010.


Following an agreement in which the full release of the vessel and all 15 crew was stipulated, the ship was released on April 15th but the Master has confirmed that six officers and one rating were taken off the tanker by the pirates, who ordered them ashore.


One theory as to why the pirates chose not to honour their agreement concerns the arrest of Somali pirates by the Indian Navy in recent weeks. It is thought the pirates have chosen to extend the incarceration of the seven hostages in retaliation of these arrests but this marks a significant change in piracy negotiations, from being between the ship owner and pirates, to between pirates and government.


In the joint statement, the major shipping organisations said this shift will need to be carefully “considered and addressed by the international community” and added: “The international and national representative organisations are gravely concerned with this new development as international governments continue to fail to adequately respond to this 21st century example of organised 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.


“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.”