CREW MEMBERS of the Taiwanese fishing vessel, Prantalay 12, have been held by Somali pirates since 18 April 2010. Of the original 25 crew, six died when the ship capsized in July 2011. Four Thai crew members remain in captivity over 4 years later (note: the hostages are Thai but the ship is Taiwanese).
The Prantalay 12 was captured with two other fishing vessels, Prantalay 11 and 14, with a total crew of 77 who had been looking for tuna and working out of Djibouti. Prantalay 12 was beached 14 July 2011.
Prantalay 14 was the more fortunate of the vessels as it was rescued by Indian naval forces on INS Cankarso 28 January 2011 near the Lakshadweep Islands following a 12-hour gun battle, resulting in 15 pirates surrendering and being taken to Kochi to face trial.
UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime), with the help of the Puntland authorities and elders, obtained the release of 14 Burmese crew members in 2011. The remaining 5 Thais, one of whom has since died, were held ashore without any significant negotiations or communications in place.
The UNODC Hostage Support Programme (HSP) began a dialogue with the pirates holding the crew in 2013 that has subsequently let to renewed conversations with the Thai Embassy and the provision of medical visits from a UNODC HSP doctor and a humanitarian/medical package provided by the Embassy delivered by UNODC HSP through contacts in the Galmudug government.
Whilst the crew are alive and, apart from some minor ailments, are mostly well, the mental toll on the four crew, after such a long time in captivity, is immense.
The UNODC HSP continues to put pressure on the pirates for a humanitarian release and is being actively supported by the Thai Embassy in Nairobi with consular support. It is emphasised that the UN does not engage in any ransom negotiations.
In total, there remain 37 hostages still held by pirates in Somalia – all held for over 4 years – they include 7 Indians from MV Asphalt Venture; 26 (all from Asia) from FV Naham 3 and 4 Thais from FV Prantalay 12.
At the height of Somali piracy in 2010, 1,016 seafarers were taken hostage in the Horn of Africa-Indian Ocean region.