Muscat: The non-payment of a “large ransom” delayed the release of 26 hostages held by Somali pirates for nearly five years, according to a representative from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which flew the freed sailors to Nairobi.
The hostages were crew members of the FV Naham 3, an Omani-flagged fishing vessel, which had been hijacked by the Somali pirates, off the coast of Seychelles in 2012.
They were released on October 22.
“Unfortunately for them, the vessel had a little financial value and it sank after they were captured. And the pirate groups, which took them hostage, used to charge huge ransoms for the release.
“In this case, that sort of money was simply not available... and so there was very long period while they were in custody and as the captors got used to the idea that they will not get a large ransom for these 26 sailors,” Alan Cole, the head of UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme, said.
According to the Hostage Support Partners (HSP), the Omani flagged fishing vessel was hijacked on March 26, 2012 roughly 65 nautical miles south of the Seychelles.
Of the original 29-member crew, one died during the hijacking and two more succumbed to illness during their captivity.
The remaining 26 crew members spent much of their captivity on land in Somalia. The crew of the Naham 3 consisted of members from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
“They have spent over four and a half years in deplorable conditions away from their families,” said John Steed, coordinator of the Hostage Support Partners (HSP) for Oceans Beyond Piracy.
The crew of the Naham 3 were held for 1,672 days. They were held for the second longest period by Somali pirates after the four hostages of the FV Prantalay 12, were released last year by HSP.
Their road to freedom has been long and filled with peril. The Naham 3 was originally tethered to another hijacked vessel, the MV Albedo taken in November 2010 (and released by the HSP in 2013). When the MV Albedo began to sink, with its crew onboard, the crew of the Naham 3 courageously assisted in their rescue by jumping into the ocean to save the drowning seafarers.
Over a year after its capture, the Naham 3 sunk and the crew was brought ashore, where they were subject to much greater risks.