The Aris 13 oil tanker
The eight Sri Lankan crew on board the oil tanker Aris 13 who were held captive by Somali pirates for the last four days are expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on Sunday.
They were released without any demands for ransom; a first for the pirates and it is the fastest release of any vessel that had been hijacked.
In previous hijackings the crew remain captive for years; eight Iranians are still being held.
The EU Naval Force (Somalia) in a statement released yesterday said the Puntland Maritime Police Force which assisted with the ship’s release are currently on board.
Credit for the fast release goes to Namalie Sampath, sister of chief officer, Ruwan Sampath who has persisted tirelessly to convince the Sri Lankan government to intervene and stop the Somali authorities from firing at the oil tanker which would have caused grave risk to the lives of those on board. On Thursday evening, the Somali maritime forces opened fire at the tanker, which led to the pirates forcing the Sri Lankan Chief Officer to call his sister to have her appeal to the government to get them to stop the Somalian authorities from firing at them.
“My brother called me and said, they were being fired on and they would probably survive only for the next hour. I received the call as soon as we finished the meeting with the Foreign Ministry at around 5.00 pm. When I first told the Foreign Ministry officials, they did not believe me but I had the recording of the call and showed it to them. I also got the numbers of the company from the ship manning agent and we called the owner to inform him. I kept insisting on this so much that the government officials eventually believed me and they acted on it fast”, said Sampath.
Soon after, the Captain of the Ship, Anthony Thangenthren called home to inform his family that the shooting had stopped.
“We managed to get the gunfire stopped by 6.30-7 p.m. I am happy that our government listened to me, I am nobody important but they listened. I am also proud of our country and government to have achieved something no other country has done,”she further explained.
Sampath who is a government worker herself said that she had no option but to fight given the circumstances, “my brother called me and asked me to look after his wife and child because he was going to die soon. I could have broken down there
and cried but I simply prayed for strength and that the pirates themselves have a change of heart and release them without ransom. I knew that if they asked for ransom, we would not be able to pay it for several months”, she said.
Foreign agencies reporting the incident explained that the pirates released the tanker after intense discussions with Somali authorities and local elders.
The pirates had agreed to forego a ransom after learning that Somali businessmen had hired the ship, which was taking oil from Djibouti to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Pirates have traditionally been wary of tangling with Somalia’s powerful businessmen, reported news Agencies.
“After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom,” Reuters quoted pirate Abdullahi to have said.
The hijacking which was the first since 2012, according to Reuters had followed “an outpouring of anger by locals over foreign fishermen flooding into their waters. The Somalis are also angry with their government for licensing some of the ships”. (Daily News)