Friday, February 27, 2015

Pirate Hostages Free After Almost Five Years in Captivity in Somalia

Dead Colleagues However Will Never Return
Shipping News Feature

SOMALIA – THAILAND – After almost five years in captivity in the hands of Somali pirates the four Thai crew of the fishing vessel Prantalay 12 have been released and are on their way home. The vessel was taken on 18 April 2010 and, according to the International Maritime Bureau, at 4 years, 10 months and 9 days this makes them the longest held hostages. Originally there were twenty five crew but fourteen Burmese crew were released in August 2011 leaving behind eleven, but it is believed that six or seven other crew have been either killed or have died through illness.

After its capture the FV Prantalay 12 was used as a pirate mother ship supplying skiffs with weapons and fuel to launch attacks out at sea before it sank in July 2011 when the crew was taken ashore and reportedly held somewhere in the Galmudug State, an autonomous region in central Somalia south of Puntland, where many attackers emanate from. The Prantalay 12 was captured with two sister ships, Prantalay 11 and 14, with a total crew of around 70 who had been looking for tuna and working out of Djibouti.

In early 2011, two separate operations saw the crew from both 11 and 14 freed by Indian Naval forces and a total of 43 pirates arrested. Prantalay 12 had 24 crewmembers on board. The pirates had initially asked for a total of US$27 million to secure the release of all three vessels and crew. Unconfirmed sources tell us that the pirate gang had incurred debts whilst holding the prisoners and eventually settled for a $150,000 ransom to be rid of the four surviving men.

Fishing crew often reap no rewards whatsoever for the pirates other than their craft which are used by the gangs. Unlike the container and bulk freight carriers the owners, and families of the crew, lack sufficient resources to pay a substantial ransom and it is believed up to twenty six hostages remain imprisoned by pirates in the region. During their captivity the Thai crew received some help from the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) and Programme Director Roy Paul commented:

“Whilst the crew were being held hostage on board their families have been held hostage at home. The owner paid some small monies to the families originally but stopped after some time. The families were sustained by MPHRP using its families' Fund (MPHRF). The Fund collected donations from MPHRP's industry partners and will continue to support the families and the crew.”

The Prantalay 12 crew were assisted by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Hostage Release Programme and taken to Nairobi where the Thai Embassy had a medical team look after them and arranged their travel papers. The crew are expected to arrive back in Bangkok soon and will be met by Government and Industry officials and MPHRP Welfare Responders.

Assistant Programme Director of MPHRP, Hennie la Grange, pointed out that the Prantalay 12 release, coming after almost 5 years, significantly occurs in the same week as the release of piracy's latest victims. Three seafarers kidnapped only three weeks ago by Nigerian pirates were released on Wednesday after an attack on a super tanker which resulted in the death of its deputy captain. Seafarers clearly continue to face the real and present danger posed by piracy.

Anyone who wishes to support these crew members and their families and also other crew members who are affected by piracy can do so using this link.

Photo: The four Thai fishermen on their way home at last.