The Georgian captain of the Greek chemical tanker held by Somali pirates for 18 months has spoken of the hell he and his crew suffered.
“We have gone through an infernal torment, starvation, thirst. All this time we have been on a leash, like animals,” Memed Zakaradze told Georgia’s Rustavi 2 television.
“But we did not lose hope for even a second,” he said.
The 6,400-dwt Olib G (built 1988), with 15 Georgians and three Turks on board, was seized in September 2010 and released this week.
The vessel had been on its final voyage to India to be scrapped, while its Greek owner went bust and pirates asked for $9m as a ransom.
Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili said the men’s release was secured through confidential negotiations whose details he could not disclose at this time.
“Georgia will always fight for its citizens,” Saakashvili added.
Georgia denied reports a $3m ransom had been paid.
“No ransom whatsoever was paid to the pirates,” maritime transport agency spokeswoman Ana Gomarteli told AFP.
The crew are heading to a safe port in Africa and will be back in Georgia by Monday.
“After their return to Georgia we will be able to speak in detail about how their liberation was achieved,” she added.