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Hijacked ship MV Abdullah released with all sailors

TBP Online
14 Apr 2024 15:31:31 | Update: 14 Apr 2024 23:17:47
Hijacked ship MV Abdullah released with all sailors
— UNB Photo

Bangladeshi cargo ship MV Abdullah and its 23 crew members, who were held hostage by Somali pirates, have been released.

KSRM media advisor Mizanul Islam confirmed this at 3:45am on Sunday, reports UNB.

He told UNB, "We received the good news a while ago. Our ship with 23 sailors has been released. All 23 sailors are unharmed and in good health. We will hold a press conference at the KSRM headquarters at noon on Sunday to provide details."

The Bangladeshi-flagged ship and its 23 crew members were released after 31 days of being taken hostage in the Indian Ocean for a large ransom, but the exact amount of the ransom was not immediately known.

However, a Somali news outlet reported that MV Abdullah was released for $5 million (Tk 55 crore).

When asked by a reporter how much ransom was paid to the Somali pirates, Mizanul said, "I can't say that at this moment. But we were able to get our ship and sailors back through negotiations with them."

Meanwhile, the ship has already left Somalia and is heading towards the United Arab Emirates, according to the owner, KSRM Group. Shahriar Jahan Rahat, the company's deputy managing director, told the media early Sunday, "Our ship has left for the United Arab Emirates after being released."

Earlier, on March 12 at 1:30pm Bangladesh time, Somali pirates boarded and took control of the MV Abdullah while it was en route from the port of Maputo, Mozambique, to the United Arab Emirates. The ship was carrying 55,000 tons of coal. All 23 crew members on board are Bangladeshis. The ship is owned by SR Shipping Limited, an affiliate of Chattogram-based Kabir Group. The pirates then took the ship to the coast of Somalia.

Nine days after the ship was hijacked, the pirates contacted the ship's owner's group to demand ransom. There were then negotiations at various levels. The ship's owner had hinted that the sailors would be released this month.

SR Shipping is one of the largest shipping companies in the country. They operate ocean-going merchant ships. The bulk carrier MV Abdullah, with a deadweight tonnage (DWT) of 45,653 tons, has an overall length (LOA) of 185.74 metres and a width of 30.4 metres.

‘Previous experience used’

KSRM Group, the owner of MV Abdullah, has claimed that the ship and its 23 crew members were safely released through negotiations with the pirates, using the experience of the 2011 hostage situation involving their ship “Jahan Moni”.

"Our other ship 'Jahan Moni' was hijacked in 2011. It took us a long time to rescue the ship because we lacked experience. However, using that experience, we were able to quickly rescue MV Abdullah this time,” said Meherul Karim, CEO of KSRM Group, at a press conference held at the company's office at 12:00pm in Chattogram’s city’s Agrabad Goasail Danga on Sunday.

He added that all the sailors and crew of the ship are safe and sound. No one was harmed. However, when asked about the ransom, Meherul Karim declined to comment, reports UNB.

Describing the process of rescuing the ship, Meherul said, "We were constantly tracking the ship's position since it was hijacked. We were monitoring where it was being taken from time to time. A few days after the hostage-taking, one of the pirates who could speak English started contacting us. We also started communicating from our side, following all international protocols. This is how MV Abdullah was released after a successful month-long communication."

He added that, "Two days ago, we took videos of each crew member of our ship to confirm their safety. All the rules were followed. There were 65 pirates on the ship. On Saturday around 3 am, the ship's captain informed me that the pirates had disembarked from the ship in a speedboat."

When journalists asked the KSRM CEO about the ransom, he said, "I apologise. I can't tell you anything about any ransom. We have an agreement with everyone on this issue. I can't go out of the agreement.”

Shahariar Jahan Rahat, Deputy Managing Director of KSRM Group, said at the press conference, "We have to keep some things confidential. We cannot promote piracy." He added that if the amount of ransom money is disclosed, it will be legitimized.

Shahariar said MV Abdullah will reach Dubai on April 19 or 20. The sailors and crew will then return to Bangladesh by flight or ship. He said that the decision on how they will return to the country will be taken after talking to the sailors and crew.

Earlier on Sunday, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said at a press conference that the news and pictures being circulated about ransom are not true. The sailors were released through extensive international pressure and negotiations. It may take 15 to 20 days for them to return.

‘MV Abdullah freed for international pressure, negotiations’

State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury on Sunday said the Bangladeshi cargo ship MV Abdullah and its 23 sailors were released from the clutches of Somali pirates through international pressure and negotiations.

He added that he had no information about the pirates being paid ransom, reports UNB.

Khalid said this while talking to reporters at his Minto Road residence in the capital on Sunday (April 14). The Bangladeshi sailors were released after 31 days. 

The Bangladeshi ship and sailors were captured by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on March 12.

"We have no involvement in money or ransom. We have no information that the ship was released by paying money. Many are showing different types of pictures, none of these pictures are true. We do not know where these pictures are coming from, how they are coming,” said the state minister.

"As far as it has been done, our Department of Shipping, various international organisations, the European Navy, the Indian Navy, the Somali Police… I want to thank the Puntland Police of Somalia; they have been cooperating with us all the time. The wings of the International Maritime Organisation have been very helpful to us."

"We have been negotiating with the pirates for a long time. There is no question of ransom here. We had discussions and various types of pressures were given. Those pressures have also worked here."

“They (the pirates) also had their own security concerns. The pressure was on them all the time,” added Khalid.

"It had gone to an extreme, that's why they got off the ship (there). And the pressure was so much, that when they took control of the ship, there were 20 pirates. Yesterday, when they left the ship, there were already around 65 pirates on board. You have to understand, how much pressure they underwent in the mainland. Everyone left there (the ship) together yesterday. They were surrounded within two nautical miles. The other fleets (various forces) were in position when they left,” he also said.

"Our Department of Shipping was talking to them at that time and helped them to leave, by moving the fleets a little further away,” said the state minister.

Describing it as a huge operation, Khalid said, "If we put all the emails we have sent together, those will fill a big basket. We had to keep corresponding every moment. Everyone has realised that we were so prompt and so serious."

The Department of Shipping will take steps to prevent such unwanted incidents from happening in the future, added.