x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sharjah shipowner urges pirates to honour deal

Owners and managers of the company whose vessel was captured by pirates have expressed frustration that despite paying a $3.6 million ransom, not all crew members have been released.

ABU DHABI // A Sharjah ship owner has warned Somali pirates that reneging on a deal to free seven of its crew will cause others to question the point of paying ransom demands.

The pirates captured the MV Asphalt Venture and its 15 crew, all Indians, more than six months ago and anchored the ship off the Somali town of Harardhere.

After a ransom payment the pirates say was worth $3.6 million (Dh13.2m), eight of the crew and the ship were released at the weekend, but the pirates retained seven - six officers and one crew member -in retaliation for the capture of 120 pirates by Indian authorities over the past few months.

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The Sharjah ship owner Bitumen Invest AS and the Indian managers of the ship, OMCI Ship Management, released a statement yesteday expressing "deep disappointment" over the pirates reneging on their word. "This is despite meeting all demands of the negotiated settlement and paying the mutually agreed ransom," read the statement.

"The vessel is in Somali waters. The owners appeal to the pirates to honour their word and immediately release the six officers and one crew member. All owners of other ships hijacked by pirates which are still captive in Somalia will lose faith in the negotiation process unless those taken from the Asphalt Venture are returned immediately."

It is thought to be the first time pirates have reneged on a ransom deal since the practice of capturing ships off the coast of Somalia came to international attention six years ago.

Sunil Puri, a spokesman for both companies, said the pirates were not "directly in touch with the company".

The 4,000-tonne vessel had been en route to South Africa last September when it was seized about 100 nautical miles off the coast of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Indian forces have had four confrontations with pirates this year. After the third, in March, a pirate named Bile Hussein warned that Indian hostages might face rougher treatment as a result.

Mr Puri said the company hoped the crew was in no danger. "We kept our side of the bargain."

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

* additional reporting by Carol Huang

UAE donates to global anti-piracy fund

The UAE yesterday pledged US$1.4 million (Dh5.1m) to help combat maritime piracy.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, announced the contribution to the UN’s Counter-Piracy Trust Fund ahead of an anti-piracy conference in Dubai this week. Last year the fund had a budget of about $4.5m.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the UAE’s donation was “significant” and would support the fund for years to come. The conference is being held in Dubai today and tomorrow.