Rescued SL crew expected back in Colombo today
Pirates got offer they couldn’t refuse – Sky NewsMarch 17, 2017, 10:56 pm
by Norman Palihawadane
Namalee Makalandawa, (2R) a sister of Sampath, who is one of the crew members of an oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates looks on as she sits with other relatives during a press conference in Colombo on March 17, 2017, after the release of the eight-member all Sri Lankan crew along with their foreign-owned oil tanker which had been seized by Somali pirates four days earlier. LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP
Sri Lankan crew members of the hijacked Aris 13 vessel said that the Somalian pirates had robbed all their possessions before leaving the ship. They were left with only their clothes and mobile phones, they said.
Chief Engineer of the vessel, Jayantha Kalubowila told The Island over the phone that Aris 13 with eight Sri Lankan crew members on-board had arrived at the Port of Bosaso located in North Eastern Somalia Puntland region yesterday.
Kalubowila said that a special unit of the Somali security forces had escorted the vessel while it was proceeding to the Port of Bosaso.
Foreign news agencies reported that the Puntland forces had exchanged gunfire with a small boat carrying supplies for the pirates on board the hijacked oil tanker. Reports said that the pirates had mounted heavy machine guns on the deck of the hijacked tanker.
Two civilians were injured in the gun battle.
All crew on-board the Aris 13 vessel was safe after the hijacking drama, according to the Chief Engineer Kalubowila.
Explaining the ordeal they went through at the hands of Somali Pirates, Kalubowila said that a rescue operation had been launched by Puntland forces in Somalia on Thursday. The Puntland forces had exchanged fire with the Somali hijackers on board the vessel. The gun battle took place in the Habo area in the Bari region located in the Northeast of Somalia.
Aris 13 hijacking was the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel on the crucial global trade route since 2012.
The vessel had left the Colombo Port at 05:30 pm on January 28, in order to reach Mogadishu.
Nicholas Anthony from Colombo is the skipper of the hijacked vessel while Sunil Perera is the Boatswain of the vessel. Kalubowila is the Chief Engineer of the ship and Janaka Semendra is the Third Engineer of Aris 13. A. Shanmugam is the cook on the vessel. Lahiru Indunil from Akuressa joined the ill-fated voyage as a trainee sailor.
"We were given only bread and sometimes had only one meal a day. We had no hopes of seeing our loved ones again. The pirates always held us at gunpoint. They allowed some of us to answer the calls we received," Kalubowila said adding that they expected to return to Colombo today.
Meanwhile, Sky News reported: Somali pirates who hijacked an oil tanker on Monday have released the ship and its eight Sri Lankan crew, officials say.
It came after a gunfight between naval forces from the semi-autonomous state of Puntland and the gang, followed by negotiations involving local elders.
Former British army officer John Steed said: "The Puntland maritime police force freed the ship. They made (the pirates) an offer they couldn’t refuse and the pirates have left."
The reported offer was not disclosed but a pirate confirmed the Comoros-flagged Aris 13 was released without a ransom being paid.
The gang said they agreed to forego a ransom after finding out that Somali businessmen had hired the tanker.
Pirates have traditionally been wary of getting caught up with the country’s powerful businessmen.
Aris 13 had been anchored a few miles off the Somali coast near the town of Alula.
Naval forces have now boarded it and were escorting the ship to Bossaso port, the region’s commercial hub.
The pirates were not arrested and were allowed to leave.
On Thursday, there were clashes between maritime forces and the hijackers who started shooting at each other. Local residents said four civilians were injured by stray bullets.
Three days earlier, the ship was taken over by the gang who arrived in two small boats. Most of the crew were held captive in a locked room.
It was the first hijacking in the region for five years, and maritime experts have accused ship owners of becoming complacent after a long period of calm.
The tanker, which was making its way from Djibouti to the Somali capital Mogadishu, had changed its course, heading towards the coastline of the northeastern tip of Somalia.
The cost and time saving route, paired with the ship’s slow speed and lack of armed escort, left it vulnerable to attack.
Last Updated Mar 22 2017 | 09:17 pm