Mumbai: The Somali pirates holding seven Indian crew of M/T Asphalt Venture hostage have refused to negotiate with the ship owners and insisted they would engage only with the government authorities.
“The pirates are refusing to deal with us... they want to talk only with the government for release of the remaining seven crew members, including six officers,” a representative of the company told the news agency.
Beyond this, he said, the company is not aware if any new demands have been put forth by the pirates, who had earlier taken the seven on-shore to Somalia.
The shipping company is in touch with the external affairs ministry and the shipping ministry for the release of the crew members, which is a “top priority” right now, he said.
M/T Asphalt Venture with an all-Indian 15-member crew was hijacked in September last year by Somali pirates.
Ending a seven-month ordeal, eight of them returned to India on Sunday after the owners paid a huge undisclosed sum as ransom. The pirates, who were supposed to release all the 15 crew members, reneged on their promise at the last minute and took seven of them on-shore to Somalia. The ship was also released.
Those set free waited in vain on the vessel for their colleagues for a while before being escorted safely to the Kenyan port of Mombasa on 28 April with the help of Indian Navy, as staying in pirate-infested waters was not safe.
According to reports, the pirates backtracked and did not release the entire crew as they want their fellow brigands to be set free by the Indian authorities. Over 120 sea brigands, mostly Somali nationals, have been arrested by Indian navy and coast guard in the last couple of months.