Mumbai: Twenty eight Indian sailors held hostage by Somali pirates have been released. The sailors were on board two ships Merchant Tanker Royal Grace and Merchant Tanker Smyrni and 17 were on board the MT Royal Grace and 11 were on board the MT Smyrni.
The Indian sailors have been released but they are yet to reach a safe zone. Both the ships were hijacked off the coast of Somalia in 2012.
Shipping Minister GK Vasan made the announcement in Chennai, saying the government secured the release of the sailors on board the two vessels due to coordinated efforts of the Ministries of Shipping, External Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, Director General Shipping and other agencies. "I am very happy to announce the release of Indian seafarers. Due to coordinated actions of Ministry of Shipping, External Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, Director General Shipping and other important agencies, on Friday we could get release of two vessels MV Royal Grace hijacked in March 2012 and MT Smrini hijacked in May 2012," Vasan told reporters in Chennai.
He said 17 sailors on MV Royal Grace and 11 on board MT Smrini would return home this week. Observing that piracy near coastal Somalia is a cause for concern, he said the government has been taking utmost care to deal with the issue. "Our primary concern is to bring back our
sailors home safely."
Vasan pointed out that nine Indian sailors were still being held captive by Somalian pirates and the government would continue its efforts for ensuring their "safe passage". The minister declined to divulge details how the pirates' demands were met, saying "we are very concerned about the safety of the seafarers and it was done in a discreet way by Ministry of Shipping, External Affairs, Ministry of Defence and other important agencies."
With Additional Inputs from PTI