Pirates take ransom, keep hostages

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The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), ITF, Indian National Shipowners' Association, NUSI, MUI, IMEC, InterManager, Intertanko and BIMCO have jointly released a statement deploring the latest development in the Indian Ocean piracy crisis as some Indian crew members of a released merchant ship are retained ashore in Somalia.

The 'Asphalt Venture', a 1991-built asphalt/bitumen tanker was hijacked by Somali pirates on September 28, 2010 and, following a ransom payment, the ship was released on April 15. Despite the owners' concluding a dialogue with the pirates for the full release of 15 crew and vessel and payment of the ransom, the vessel was released but the master has reported that six officers and one rating were taken off the tanker and made to accompany the pirates ashore.

In subsequent press reports it was suggested that pirates in Harardhere have taken the decision not to honour the agreement made but to prolong the hostage ordeal of the seven seafarers in retaliation for the arrest of Somali pirates by the Indian Navy in recent weeks.

According to the ICS, this is a fundamental change to previous practice and moves the issue from being just between the shipowner and the pirates to being between the pirates and a government. ICS said it is a major shift in the pirate/hostage equation that will need to be considered and addressed by the international community. 

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