More Indian Response Needed 0n Hijacking of MT Stolt Valor

by OldSailor on September 24, 2008

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Everyone knows that piracy in Somali coast is increasing. This is happening despite the presence of Combined Task Force 150 in the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA). The Panama-owned oil tanker MT Stolt Valor bound for Mumbai from Suez was hijacked by 15 pirates in the Gulf of Aden on September 15. MT Stolt Valor registered in Hong Kong has 22 member crew. The ship’s master is Captain Prabhat Kumar Goyal and out of the 22 member crew, 18 are from India, two are from Philippines, one is from Bangladesh and one is from a Russia. More details about the hijack of MT Stolt Valor is here at Bob Couttie’s  Maritime Accident Casebook.

The Times of India dated September 19 reports that pirates have demanded a ransom of INR 60 million. Meanwhile there are reports that the captain’s wife Mrs Seema Goyal has received a call from one of the crew members about the crew being ill-treated and kept under poor living and working conditions. How long the crews have to wait for their release ?

Now almost a week has passed after the hijack and significant actions are not seen from India. Here are the Indian actions so far:

  • Press Information Bureau news report dated September 17 reports that 18 Indian crew members are safe.
  • To reduce piracy attacks, Express India dated September 18 reports that Indian Navy has sought permission from the Indian Government to patrol pirate infested Somali coast and take necessary actions to protect Indian citizens.
  • The Hindu dated September 19 reports that the District Magistrate, Rakesh Kumar, visited the family of P.K. Goyal, captain of the MT Stolt Valor hijacked by Somali pirates, and assured them of all possible efforts by the Uttarakhand Government to secure a safe release of all crew members.
  • The Times of India dated September 20 reports that the Indian government has virtually ruled out granting any “blanket permission” to the Indian Navy to undertake “hot pursuit” of pirates on the high seas.

Present global efforts to deal with piracy in the coast of Somalia:

  • The Round Table of international shipping associations – BIMCO, Intercargo, International Chamber of Shipping/International Shipping Federation and INTERTANKO – joined global trade union federation the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) to request the IMO Secretary-General, Mr Efthimios Mitropoulos, to use his organisation’s influence to ensure UN backing for increased naval force in order to protect the lives of seafarers and passengers as well as ships and cargoes.
  • But the Combined Maritime Forces Commander, Vice Admiral Gortney of U.S.Navy says “The Coalition does not have the resources to provide 24-hour protection for the vast number of merchant vessels in the region. The shipping companies must take measures to defend their vessels and their crews.”
  • Meanwhile, Lloyd’s List is conducting a online polling to gather world opinion on “Ship operators should arm their vessels to protect them against piracy ?”
  • Russia will soon join international efforts to fight piracy off the Somalia coast, but will conduct its operations independently.
  • European foreign ministers have agreed to set up a “coordination unit” to help tackle the growing problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia, with the possibility of an EU naval mission in future.
  • Malaysia has sent two warships, the KD Lekiu and KD Inderapura, and offshore patrol vessel, KD Pahang to Gulf of Aden to stop piracy attacks.
  • France has demonstrated on two occasions how to tackle Somali pirates.
  • Danish warship Absalon is doing a fine job of chasing, capturing Somali pirates and their weapons. But Absalon needs clear directives on what to with captured pirates.

What about India ?

More response is needed from India. Indian seafarers are also victims of Somali pirates. But, India is still pursuing wait and watch policy and hesitating to take part in global efforts to stop piracy attacks in Somalia.

Here are some reasons for India to involve more:

  • India is a member of nine nation (Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mauritius, Oman, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) South Asia Regional Port Security Cooperative, known as SARPSCO with one of its objectives to take action against terrorists and criminals in the South Asia and Indian Ocean region.
  • Also recently the Indian Navy hosted Indian Ocean Naval Symposium – IONS 2008 in February this year. One of the Objective of IONS is to strengthen the capability of all nation-states of the Indian Ocean Region to address present and anticipated challenges to maritime security and stability.
  • India promptly sent three Indian Naval Ships including two frontline guided-missile destroyers to Sri Lanka to avoid terrorist attacks from the sea during SARRC Summit held in end July 2008.
  • Also India
  • Here are the frustrations of an Indian sailor, Maria Vijayan, Chief Officer, who was held captive by Somalian pirates for 174 days (from May 15, 2007 to November 04, 2007). He says that Indian government did nothing for his release. Only United States Navy finally rescued him. Read more from Asia Times.

What else is needed for India to decide to participate in global efforts to stop piracy attacks in Somalia ? Your views are welcome.

Update: September 25

India asks the United Nations to act tough on pirates. The Indian government has ruled out any “direct intervention” by Indian warships in the Gulf of Aden because it was not permitted under international laws like the UN Security Council resolution 1816. Read more from The Times of India.

EagleSpeak has rightly pointed out Article 105 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which is reproduced below:

Article105

Seizure of a pirate ship or aircraft

On the high seas, or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State, every State may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, or a ship or aircraft taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons and seize the property on board. The courts of the State which carried out the seizure may decide upon the penalties to be imposed, and may also determine the action to be taken with regard to the ships, aircraft or property, subject to the rights of third parties acting in good faith.

It is very clear from the Article 105, as Indian seafarers are the victims of piracy, India can on her own act tough on the pirates instead of asking the U.N to act tough.

Update: October 03

Now Supreme Court has stepped in and has given a four-week deadline to Central Government to answer the queries of the relatives of the hijacked ship. Read more from The Times of India.

Meanwhile, Seema Goyal, wife of Captain P K Goyal, said on October 02, that the hijackers had reduced their ransom demand from $6 million to $2.5 million for releasing the sailors. Read more from The Times of India and A Pakistan News.

Update: October 04

On October 03, Seema Goyal wife of the captain of the hijacked vessel has met Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi seeking his intervention to save the lives of 18 Indian sailors onboard the vessel. Also Seema Goyal is further planning to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pratibha Patil, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Further, the Supreme Court has also stepped in to resolve the issue. Now it seems that some significant efforts will be made by the Government to secure the release of Indian seafarers. Read more from Rediff News and A Pakistan News.

Update: October 05

Rahul Gandhi has said that the Government will do whatever best it can to save the seafarers. Read more from IBN Live.

Seema, wife of Second Officer Santosh Kumar feels that enough support from either the government or the shipping company is lacking. The mother-to-be Seema is having sleepless nights. Read more from IBN Live.

Meanwhile, Seema Goyal wife of the Captain of the hijacked vessel has decided to stay in Delhi to follow up with the Government till the seafarers are released safely. Read more from The Times of India and Thaindian News.

Further, the Shipping Ministry of India is discussing with Defence Ministry for the deployment of Indian Naval Ships in the pirate infested waters off the coast of Somalia. Read more from Seatrade Asia Online.

Update: October 06

Last week an Indian vessel belonging to Mercator Lines, carrying a parcel of ATF from Kuwait, anchored off the coast of Somalia and stayed there in the high seas for two days. The reason: the crew of the vessel did not want to sail without adequate protection through the pirate-infested waters in that region, which has of late gained notoriety for ship hijacking and piracy. What happened thereafter ? Read more from Business Line.

Update: October 07

In an attempt to garner mass support in their fight for the rescue of the 18 Indians on board the hijacked Cargo MT Stolt Valor, the families of the hijacked sailors are holding a peace march in various parts of the country on October 07.  Also Seema Goyal has met Japanese embassy officials at New Delhi on October 06, to expedite release of hijacked seafarers. Read more from A Pakistan News.

Update: October 08

Family members of crew in the hijacked ship MV Stolt Valor have threatened to go on a hunger strike if Centre does not step in to rescue them.Read more from The Times of India.

Also at Tuticorin, members of National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) staged a demonstration in front of the district collectorate on October 07, demanding the release of the 18 Indian seafarers hijacked by pirates off Somalia last month. Read more from News WebIndia 123.

Further Shipping Minister T R Baalu and External Affairs Minister of State Anand Sharma have assured Seema Goyal that every effort would be made to secure release of the hostages. Read more from News WebIndia123.

Update: October 10

Even Chinese help is sought for the safe release of the seafarers. Read more from News WebIndia123.

Update: October 15

Seema Goyal, wife of captain of the hijacked ship said  “One of the crew members of the ship called me and broke down. He said the hijackers have given a 48-hour ultimatum and he pleaded me to make arrangements within 48 hours”. Read more from ExpressIndia and The Times of India.

Update: October 17

On October 16, Indian government has finally approved deployment of Indian Naval warship with immediate effect in Gulf of Aden, to instill confidence in Indian seafarers against piracy attacks. It seems that this decision has been taken

  • to avoid noisy scenes in parliament as the Indian parliament is resuming its session on October 17
  • as Seema Goyal wife of the hijacked vessels captain, was to meet Sonia Gandhi to intervene.

It is further reported that INS Tabar, armed with supersonic Brahmos missiles, already in Gulf of Aden has been asked to commence patrolling immediately. Read more from Press Information Bureau and IBN Live.

Update: October 19

The government says that the Indian naval presence in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operation would not be restricted to just one ship and more could be deployed. Read more from A Pakistan News.

Also, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on October 18 has assured Seema Goyal, wife of the captain of hijacked MT Stolt Valor, of safe rescue of people on the ship. Read more from Thaindian News.

Update: October 20

It is interesting to read from Naval Open Source Intelligence (NOSI) that six Indian Navy ships have started patrolling Gulf of Aden. Read more from NOSI.

Update: October 21

As a set back to Indian Navy’s patrolling in Gulf of Aden, an Indian ‘Dhow’ with 13 sailors on board heading towards Africa was hijacked by armed pirates off the northern coast of Somalia. Exact date and time of hijack is being verified. Also, there is no development on the release of MT Stolt Valor crew. Read more from Express India and Hindustan Times.

However, GMA News reports that Somali gunmen acting as freelance coast guards freed the hijacked Indian dhow and its 13 crew members after a battle with pirates off the country’s northern coast. Read more from GMA News.

Update: October 22

“India has no legal framework to order its navy to intervene in the waters of Somalia because there is no agreement between India and Somalia and also the Resolution of 1817 doesn’t allow them,” says Ambassador Ebyan Mahamed Salah. Meanwhile, the Indian sailors held captive by Somali pirates are safe. Read more from IBN Live.

Update: October 23

Japanese ship owners say that it may take a month for the release of the hijacked MT Stolt Valor and its crew. Read more from IBN Live.

Also the crew of eight ships docked at Mumbai and Cochin, are refusing to let their vessels go to unsafe Gulf of Aden as there is no development on the release of MT Stolt Valor crew. Read more from A Pakistan News.

Further, maritime lawyer says that seafarers could sue ship owners who would let them pass through high-risk areas like the Gulf of Aden. Read more from GMA News.

Update: October 25

The Indian Government has decided to send an emissary to Japan to have a liaison with ship owners of MT Stolt Valor for early release of hijacked Indian crew. Read more from The Times of India.

Update: November 12

On November 11, Indian Navy ship Tabar in the Gulf of Aden successfully foiled piracy attempts on M V Jag Arnav of Great Eastern Shipping Company and Saudi flagged MV NCC Thihama. However relatives of the crew of hijacked vessel MT Stolt Valor feel that If the government had acted earlier, the Stolt Valor incident would not have taken place. Read more from The Times of India.

Update: November 14

It seems that the number of warships present in the Gulf of Aden are not sufficient and lacks coordination between the warships to provide protection to merchant vessels from pirates. India has called for a United Nations peacekeeping force to patrol the Gulf of Aden. This was raised at the Council meeting of the International Maritime Organization in London as an Indian merchant vessel was refused timely protection by the Western naval patrol. Read more from Thaindian News.

Update: November 16

Japanese vessel MT Stolt Valor, that had been hijacked near the Gulf of Aden on September 15 with 22 crew, including 18 Indians, on board, was released today (November 16) on Sunday. Read more from The Times of India.

RIA Novosti says that as per western media reports a ransom of over $1 million was paid for the release of the Stolt Valor and its crew.

Press Information Bureau reports that Thiru T.R. Baalu, the Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways was personally monitoring the progress on a day-to-day basis to ensure that sufficient efforts were made for the release of the ship.

18 Indians on the ship are : Capt.P.K.Goyal, Ullas Krishna, Lalatendu Maharana, Naveed Burondkar, Santosh Patil, Santosh Kumar, Jagan Achary, Omprakash Shukla, Simhachalam Gondu, Suryanarayana Chodipilli, Bijender, Nihal Singh, Anil Kumar, Pani Rayan Lobo, Jerapin Pellarmin, Dipak Kumar Tandel, Isidore Fernandes and Allister Fernandes. Two of these crew members Pani Rayan Lobo and Jerapin Pellarmin are from Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu.
The other four crew members belonged to Bangladesh, Philippines and Russia.

Update: November 25

Here is an interesting article “Need for an Indian Response in Somali waters” from Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

Update: November 26

Captain of hijacked Japanese owned cargo vessel MT Stolt Valor, Prabhat Goyal has said that Somali pirates were using many hijacked ships abandoned by their owners as mother vessels for piracy. View a video clip to know more from Videos from India.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Prabhat Goyal April 12, 2012 at 3:39 AM

Fabulous Article. Well Written , detailed & Precise !
Thank You !

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