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Indians among 45 crew members held by Somali pirates

December 29, 2009 21:08 IST
Pirates are holding 45 crew members, including Indians after they seized a UK-flagged chemical tanker and a Panamanian carrier off the piracy infested Somalia's coast, a top official of the maritime watchdog said in Kuala Lumpur.

The two hijackings come despite ships taking precautions in the African waters hit by piracy for some years now. Ship owners need to take extra precaution when sailing in the Horn of Africa, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

It is not known how many Indian crew members were on board the UK flagged chemical tanker. Dozens of ships have been hijacked in the last two years in the Somali waters, Choong said, adding the UK-flagged tanker, St James Park, had issued a distress message on Tuesday, seeking help after it was attacked.

The distress call was picked up by the Greek rescue and coordination center in Piraeus, which relayed the message to the International Maritime Bureau and other agencies, he said.

The St James Park set sail from Tarragona, Spain, and was headed for Tha Phut, Thailand, the official said.

The tanker has 26 crew members from India, the Philippines, Russia, Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Poland, and Turkey.

Pirates released a Singapore-flagged container ship Kota Wajar on Monday. Choong said the latest incidents brought the number of attacks in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia to 214 this year, with 47 vessels hijacked and 12 still in the hands of pirates with 263 crew, he added.

Jaishree Balasubramanian in Kuala Lumpur
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