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Industry bodies raise the alarm after pirates hold on to Indian crew despite freeing their ship following ransom payment.
Concern is spreading throughout shipping after the ongoing battle with piracy entered uncharted territory this weekend.
Pirates are refusing to release seven Indian seafarers from a Norwegian owned tanker despite receiving a ransom payment and freeing the ship.
The pirates are still holding the six officers and one rating from the 3,884-dwt Asphalt Venture (built 1991) and are looking to exchange their hostages for a gang of pirates held by the Indian navy.
"It was a joint understanding among us not to release any Indian citizens," one pirate told Reuters. "India hasn't only declared war against us, but also it has risked the lives of many hostages," he said.
Industry bodies including the International Chamber of Shipping, ITF and Intertanko have condemned the move. "As the state of lawlessness spirals downward in the Indian Ocean and the level of violence that pirates are prepared to use to coerce seafarers and to influence the hostage negotiation increases, this breach of the ransom agreement sets a precedent that is of the utmost concern," a joint statement said.
"This is a fundamental change to previous practice and moves the issue from being just between the shipowner and the pirates to being between the pirates and a government. "It is a major shift in the pirate-hostage equation which will need to be considered and addressed by the international community."
The Asphalt Venture is now being towed to Mombasa having been released along with its non-Indian crew members. Beneficially owned by Ness Risan and Partners of Oslo, the ship was captured off Tanzania on 29 September while en route from South Africa to Kenya with 15 crew onboard.