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Contact with hijacked ship lost

It’s heading towards Somalia

Published : 13 Mar 2024 10:41 PM

All the communications between the Bangladesh-flagged cargo vessel, MV Abdullah which was  hijacked by the Somalian pirates  in the Indian Ocean have been lost since Wednesday evening.

Chief executive officer of SR Shipping Meherul Karim said no contact has yet been possible with the pirates. 

He said, "We are now tracking the ship. It is heading towards Somalia." 

Replying to a query, Meherul said, "We are yet to receive any ransom call from the pirates. Things are not that easy. It takes time. However, we are trying to contact different organisations to reach out to the pirates."

Md. Shakawat Hossain,  General Secretary of the Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers’ Association” (BMMOA)  also said, there was no communications between the ship and the  owner since Tuesday  evening.

There was no communications from the pirates also, he added.

Regarding the claim of demanding five million US dollars as ransom, he  said, the  news of  claim of ransom is not true.

We expect, the communications may begin from pirates once the ship reaches Somalian anchorage, he added.Vessel had picked up her speed in last 5 hours, likely due to tidal support. If she continues with her current speed, she may reach Somalia anchorage by tomorrow ( Thursday) morning, he further said.

Sources said Chief Officer Md Atik Ullah Khan of the MV Abdullah managed to make a phone call to his mother immediately  after suspected Somali pirates hijacked the vessel.

Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud said the government is trying to work with a "second party" to ensure the safe release of hostages aboard the MV Abdullah. 

Speaking to journalists at the Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban of Dhaka University, Mahmud said, "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed concern over the incident. Security agencies are working and it was discussed in the cabinet meeting informally." 

He said the government had already informed the relevant bodies in information centres of Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi and Singapore, alongside alerting naval ships of the USA, the UK, India and China.

"We are trying to  establish contact  with the pirates through a second party. We can't connect with the pirates till now, but we have informed where it's needed."

State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury on Wednesday said efforts are underway to rescue the crew members of MV Abdullah. 

However, the time required to rescue them cannot be ascertained now, the state minister told journalists at the Secretariat in the capital Dhaka.

The captors are not normal people, they are pirates said Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury while adding that "There are some organisations who can contact the pirates … At any cost, we are bound to rescue the crew and ship," he said.

He also said, "The ship is 600 nautical miles off the Somalia coast. We cannot identify them as Somali just yet, we don't know their identity. It can be said they are from that region."

The Prime Minister has told the foreign ministry and other relevant authorities to bring back the crew safe and sound.

"We want to bring back the crew to the country at any cost and as fast as possible," he added.

Regarding the threat on the lives of the crew, the state minster said they did not get any official information of the pirates threatening to kill the crews for ransom.

Talking to the local journalists in the port city of Chattagram, his mother Shahnur Begum  disclosed it on Wednesday.

Describing the phone conversation between her and her son, she told that her son has been working in ships since 2008.

 She has seen news of Somalian pirates hijacking ships on several occasions. She also followed the news about hijacking of another Bangladeshi ship MV Jahan Moni in 2010. 

At that time, I used to pray for the rescue of those hijacked mariners, she said with  voice choked up with emotion.

"But I never thought that my son would fall victim of such kidnapping. Never thought my family would go through such danger," the mother said.

She said her son was able to make a phone call when they were having iftar on Tuesday.

"He informed us that a number of Somalian pirates boarded their ship and held them hostage at gunpoint in a cabin. But none were hurt," she said.

"About 15 minutes later my son sent a voice message, saying the pirates were taking away cell phones of every crew and they might not be able to contact," a weeping Shahnur said.

After gathering herself, she resumed narrating the sudden nightmare visited upon her family, "My daughter-in-law is pregnant and she fell sick after she heard about it."

Shahnur urged the company that owns the vessel and the government to take all steps to bring back his son and 22 other crew members home safely. 

Our Staff Correspondent  from Chattagram adds: Captain Anam Chowdhury, President of the Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers Association said  the pirates   shut down the various machineries of the ship  so that the vessel cannot be tracked.  

Still we can track sometimes.  The ship is currently moving at a speed of five nautical miles and heading towards Somalia. Prolonged hostage situation could lead to food shortages on board.  Now MV Abdullah has about 200 tons of food stored in the ship, he added.

Hijacked vessel MV Abdullah was heading for Al Hamriyah Port of UAE carrying cargo coal from Mozambique's Maputo port when the pirates attacked the vessel.

The vessel has 23 crew and it belongs to Bangladeshi organisation SR Shipping Lines, a sister concern of Chattogram-based Kabir Steel and Rerolling Mill (KSRM) Group.