Pirates say they won't harm crew.
Somali pirates who hijacked the Saudi ship Al-Nisr Al-Saudi on Monday have said they will not harm the vessel"s crew, a Sri Lankan diplomat told Arab News. ?Al-Nisr Al-Saudi was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on Monday with a 14-member crew aboard, which include 13 Sri Lankans and the ships" Greek captain, Georgios Skalimis. The tanker, owned by International Bunkering Co. (IBCO), was on its way from Japan to Jeddah when it was hijacked. The hijackers have demanded a $20 million ransom. The ship is presently anchored on the coast of Somalia.
?We have held discussions with senior IBCO officials about the hijacked Saudi Arabian vessel and urged them to expedite the release of the 13 Sri Lankan crew members,? said Sri Lankan Consul General Sabarullah Khan.
IBCO is working with its insurer, the Saudi IACI Cooperative Insurance Company, to facilitate negotiations with the pirates. Khan added that the shipping company had established contact with the pirates through satellite communication and that they had given reassurances that they would not harm the Sri Lankan crew. London-based Protection and Indemnity Club (P&I) is coordinating action between the pirates and the insurance company, Khan said.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Kenya Jayantha Dissanayake said the vessel was now in the region of Gurey off the coast of Somalia. As a result of the incident, he has urged Sri Lankan nationals to refrain from seeking employment on ships that sail across Somali waters.
The island"s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said he will continue to monitor the situation and take all necessary measures to expedite the release of the Sri Lankans through Sri Lankan missions in Saudi Arabia. The minister said his government has instructed him to do everything possible to save the crew.
?We are deeply concerned about our workers and we are ready to cooperate with all parties to settle the matter as quickly as possible.?
Last year, pirates seized the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star carrying $100 million in oil cargo.
In another incident, a Turkish vessel was about to be captured by pirates late last year. Thanks to the efforts of a Saudi patrolling team, the pirates were driven away and the vessel secured. Several such incidents of piracy have been reported from the Gulf of Aden, which has become an unsafe area to sail.
Encouraged by rising ransom payments, Somali pirates have stepped up attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars by seizing vessels in the Indian Ocean and the busy Gulf of Aden shipping lanes.
Somali pirates are currently holding six hijacked ships and 132 sailors, including those aboard Al-Nisr Al-Saudi, according to the EU Naval Force. That figure may increase in coming months.