New Delhi: As many as 43 Indians are under the captivity of Somalian pirates, the government said on Monday.
"43 Indian citizens are under the custody of Somalian pirates as on date," Minister of Shipping GK Vasan informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply.
The government has set up an inter-ministerial group of officers (IMGO) to deal with hostage situation arising out of the hijacking of merchant vessels with Indian crew onboard, he said.
"The owners of fag administration of the hijacked vessels are contacted through Indian Missions abroad to ensure that they take suitable steps for safety and early release of the hostages," Vasan said.
The ministry has issued guidelines for deployment of armed security guards onboard Indian flag merchant ships. The Indian ship owners are accordingly; free to deploy armed security guards.
"Naval escort is provided to the ships in the Gulf of Aden. Besides, there are naval ships of different countries patrolling in the piracy affected area, which coordinate with each other through various multi-national and bilateral initiatives so as to combat the menace of piracy," he added.
The government has also banned sailing vessels to ply in waters south or west of the line joining Salalah and Male.
The ministry has also started active participation in the International Maritime Organisation, Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia and other international fora.
Many Indian sailors were held hostage by the Somalian pirates, last year, and some were released after the Indian government fulfilled some of their demands.