x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Oil tanker released by pirates heads for Dubai

An Italian oil tanker has been released by Somali pirates after being held for more than 10 months.

An Italian oil tanker released by Somali pirates after being held for more than 10 months is expected to reach Dubai in the next few days, family members of the Indian crew said yesterday.

The Savina Caylyn, which had five Italians and 17 Indians on-board, was seized on February 8 after five pirates aboard a skiff fired on it with rocket launchers and submachine-guns near the Yemeni island of Socotra.

The pirates released the tanker on December 21. It is owned by the Naples shipping company Fratelli D'Amato. The company declined to comment yesterday.

Media reports said a ransom had been paid, but the Italian foreign ministry denied handing over any money.

One of the Indian crew members aboard the ship, Hari C Nair, contacted his wife in Kerala to tell her that the ship would reach Dubai shortly.

"He called us from Salalah port in Oman to say that he is fine and the ship is going towards Dubai. We are happy that he is finally free," said Praseena Nair from her home in India.

"The ship might arrive in Dubai in two to three days' time, and from there he will come to India."

She said she had gone through agonising times after the ship was hijacked.

"I spent most of the time praying for the safe return of my husband. There was a lot of mental strain," she said. "It was a dark period in my life. I can't explain what I went through."

She said her husband, an engineer, had called four to five times since the ship was hijacked.

"He said that there was a food shortage and the pirates did not treat them well," she said. "We are waiting for him to come. It is going to be a great new year gift."

Bijeesha, the wife of another crew member, Bijesh Balakrishnan, said she was married only three months before the ship was hijacked.

"I was in a total shock when I heard the news. I could not believe it," she said. "A few hours before the ship was hijacked my husband spoke to me and said that they had crossed the danger zone and were safe. In the evening I got the news that it was hijacked."

She said she was now "tension-free".

"I went through a lot of pressure for about 11 months. It was difficult," she said.

Somali pirates are holding 199 people for ransom, the EU's anti-piracy mission Navfor said last month.

Since the start of the mission in December 2008, 2,317 seamen have been held hostage for an average of nearly five months.