x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Families of hijacked MVIceberg crew send SOS

The MVIceberg, which belongs to Dubai-based Azal Shipping company, was en route to Jebel Ali when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on March 29, 2010.

:Nirmal Singh, whose husband Jaswinder is among the captured crew of the MV Iceberg, visits Delhi with her son Abhimanyu and her brother-in-law Rigan to push for the Indian government to intervene in the case.
:Nirmal Singh, whose husband Jaswinder is among the captured crew of the MV Iceberg, visits Delhi with her son Abhimanyu and her brother-in-law Rigan to push for the Indian government to intervene in the case.

DUBAI // The families of three hostages being held by Somali pirates aboard a Dubai-owned ship have met with Indian opposition leaders to appeal for an intervention.

Representatives of crewmen aboard the MV Iceberg, which was hijacked last year, met with the Indian opposition leader, Sushma Swaraj, of the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday.

Regan Singh, whose brother Jaswinder Singh is one of 24 crew members being held aboard the ship, said Mrs Swaraj had promised her full support.

"She listened to our problem and said that she would try her best to put pressure on the Indian government to get the ship freed," said Mr Singh.

The MVIceberg, which belongs to Dubai-based Azal Shipping company, was en route to Jebel Ali when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on March 29, 2010.

"We spent about half an hour telling her our issue in detail. There were eight members in the group who went and met the leader," said Mr Singh. "She said that she would speak to the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to solve the matter."

Mr Singh said that they were trying hard to arrange for someone to come to the rescue of their loved ones. "Initially, there were reports that the ship got released but it could not be confirmed. We are still waiting for the good news."

He said his family had not heard anything from his brother since June 3. "That was the last time when he called us. We don't know how he is doing now."

Mangesh Mohite, the brother of Ganesh Mohite, another of the crew members, said his father had spoken to his brother a few weeks ago.

"We are hoping that negotiations will finish soon to release the ship. It has been a long wait," said Mr Mohite.

The Pakistani human rights lawyer, Ansar Burney, has been working on securing the ship's release since families approached him earlier this year.

Recently, Mr Burney helped arrange a US$2.1 million (Dh7.7m) ransom to free the MV Suez, whose 23-man crew had been held for 10 months until their release in late June.

Mr Burney said in October that a ransom had been paid and the ship would soon head to Salalah in Oman or to Dubai.

But Andrew Mwangura, the programme coordinator for the Seafarers' Assistance Programme in Kenya, who has been closely following the developments in Somalia, said the ship remained in captivity.

"The ship is still in Somalia. She has not been released," said Mr Mwangura. He said he did not have any information pertaining to whether any ransom had been paid.

"If the money has been paid, the ship would have been released - unless the money has gone into the wrong hands," he said.

He added that the condition of the crew members was not good. "They are suffering. Nothing good is coming."

The European Union's counter-piracy force, EU Navfor, also said it did not have any updates about the ship and, as far as it knew, it was still being held.

Families of the men aboard the MV Iceberg had said they spent money training their sons to get these jobs in Dubai, sometimes leasing and selling ancestral property in India. Dada Sahib Jadhav, the father of Swapnil Jadhav, from the Indian state of Maharashtra, sold three acres of land to fund his son's education in Chennai to enable him to get a general practitioner's diploma in the navy and find work overseas.

"I spent the money because I knew I was creating a secure future for him," said Mr Jadhav.

Azal Shipping has declined to comment on the situation, but it has said over the past year that negotiations were continuing.

At the time of its capture the MV Iceberg was crewed by nine Yemenis, six Indians, four Ghanaians, two Pakistanis, two Sudanese and a Filipino.

 

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