Update on 23 sailors held hostage in Somalia

Kabir Group's MV AbdullahCollected

It's been 23 days since the Somali pirates hijacked Bangladeshi ship MV Abdullah with 23 crews onboard. The owners are in discussion with pirates regarding reaching a negotiation and releasing the sailors onboard.

According to the latest updates from the owners of the ship, maritime administration and sailors’ organisation, they are yet to reach an understanding with the pirates. However, they made significant progress to reach a negotiation over the safe return of the crews.

The Somali pirates hijacked MV Abdullah from the Indian Ocean on 12 March and held the 23 Bangladeshi crews onboard hostage. After that, the pirates changed their position twice and took the vessel to Jefal coasts of Gadhavjiran district of Somalia. Some nine days after taking over the vessel, the pirates contacted the ship owners over a satellite phone. The negotiation on the release of the ship and the 23 sailors onbroad started after that.

Also Read

The Department of Shipping has been keeping track of the developments since MV Abdullah was hijacked. Speaking to Prothom Alo, Department of Shipping director general Commodore Mohammad Maksud Alam said the gap between the two sides over the negotiations has lessened. Overall, it can be said the progress towards reaching an understanding for the safe return of the crews along with the ship is quite good so far.

The pirates usually start the negotiation demanding large sums as ransom. And the owners try to bring down the amount to a tolerable level through negotiations. However, it is yet to be learnt how much the pirates have demanded. The owners haven't disclosed this.

Also Read

There were reports on international news outlets that the owners had to pay a ransom of USD 4 million to free the Bangladeshi vessel named MV Jahan Moni and the crews onboard from the pirates back in 2010. However, the owners have not admitted yet as to how much they actually paid.

The owners of MV Abdullah are saying they are still in negotiation to free the vessel and the crews. However, nothing has been finalised yet.

Speaking regarding this, Mizanul Islam, media advisor of Kabir Group, owner of MV Abdullah, told Prothom Alo they are yet to reach a final agreement. However, they have made progress.

Also Read

Speaking to Prothom Alo, two veteran sailors said it would take time to bring back the crew even after reaching an agreement. The second phase of the process is to hand over the money to the hijackers in cash. They take the ransom in dollars. The pirates avoid taking ransom through banks as the money could be stalled at any time. The cash money for ransom must be delivered to a place of their choice near the vessel.

Speaking to the owners of MV Abdullah, it has been learnt that a team of sailors from Bangladesh will be kept ready at bay after reaching a negotiation. These mariners will then apply for the visa of the first country that the hijacked vessel reaches. Visas will also be needed for the crew members held hostage. These processes are yet to be started, they said.

Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers Association president Captain Anam Chowdhury said it could take a week or two to take the vessel to the nearby port even after reaching an agreement.

He told Prothom Alo on Wednesday there are several processes after reaching a negotiation, including delivering the ransom and taking the vessel to a nearby safe port. Considering the progress so far, it might take less time to free MV Abdullah and its crews as compared to the case of MV Jahan Moni, which took nearly 100 days. However, when the crew will be able to head home depends mainly on the pirates.

*This report appeared on the online version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu

Also Read