As families of the Albedo hostages still held in Somalia launch a new fundraising appeal, a piracy expert has questioned the use of force in dealing with pirates on land.
Relatives of six Sri Lankan crew have launched a fundraising drive to secure the release of their loved ones.
The release last week of seven Pakistani crew for $1.2m has raised hopes that a similar ransom could be negotiated for the remaining 15 crew: seven Bangladeshis, six Sri Lankans, an Indian and an Iranian.
One Indian seafarer died in captivity, after reportedly contracting cholera, although there have been claims that the pirates shot him to press shipowner Malaysian Majestic Enrich Shipping to pay.
C-Level Maritime Risks head Michael Frodl said the release of hostages on Albedo was reported to be imminent in the regional press days before EU Navfor helicopters attacked pirate speedboats on a beach.
“These boats later turned out not to be attack craft sitting uncharacteristically idly around, but instead shuttle craft used to resupply Albedo out at sea,” Mr Frodl said.
“The situation has become much more complicated and delayed. If use of force could help free hostages, then they should all be freed by now, at least one would think.
“Instead, the same pirates attacked by helicopter have not been intimidated, and remain insistent that they get paid at least $2m for the fishermen’s return. They’ve even separated the crewmen and cruelly returned only one nationality but not the other.” Mr Frodl noted that there have been no further such attacks by EU Navfor helicopters.
While some reports stated that the crew remain on the vessel, Somali Report said they were being held in Camaara Village. It said the pirates were prepared to negotiate individual releases, but wanted the owner to pay to release the vessel.
This is the first instance in which pirates have negotiated directly with families and not via the shipowner. Albedo master Jawaid Khan, who was among those freed, and Ahmed Chinoy, the lead negotiator, have also pledged to help to raise funds.
The hostages have been on board the Malaysia-flagged cargo vessel since November 2010, when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden after leaving Jebel Ali port for Kenya. The pirate group initially demanded $2.9m in expenses, having been talked down from a $10m ransom. The group has refused to release all crew until their demands are met.