The Sri Lankan crew of the UAE-managed oil tanker, Aris 13, now in Somalia’s commercial capital Bosaso were still uncertain of their return to Sri Lanka, despite a dramatic rescue aided by Combined and EU maritime forces on Friday.
The Chief Officer Ruwan Sampath of the Comoros-lagged bunkering tanker, seized by pirates off Somali coastal city Alula last Monday, said they were ready to sign off after a days of ordeal in mid sea with the ruthless pirates but the Shipping company, Aurora Shipping is yet to make a pledge.
“We have not heard of any dates of our evacuation from Somalia,” he said. The Pirates agreed to disembark the ship without any conditions after negotiations brokered by the village elders bore fruit. The Government launched a multi throng diplomatic operation leading to direct communication with the ‘President’ of Puntland, an autonomous region in Somalia, to save the Lankan crew.
Puntland coastguard fought with the Pirates before the hijackers were given free passage after their decision to leave the ship and the crew unharmed.
The tanker was on its way to Mogadishu from Djibouti with a load of fuel for the Somali government. The cargo still needs to be unleaded at its destination. Therefore a replacement crew must arrive before the current crew could sign off.
International Transport Workers Federation Sri Lanka representative and National Union of Seafarers Sri Lanka Secretary Ranjan Perera said, “The Aurora Shipping must take responsibility and bring the affected crew members home as soon as possible. Their lost valuables can be reclaimed by the ship’s Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Insurance.”
“It seems the crew is disappointed with the way the managers handled the piracy case,” he said.
“In this instance the government was able to intervene as Aris 13 was a registered ship. There are others who take up jobs onboard unregistered ships. The seafarers must take note of this incident and learn a lesson.”
According to Perera there are about 18,000 Sri Lankan seafarers registered with the Director General of Merchant Shipping, the state body overseeing this sector, and about 8000 of them are currently working in ships.