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Somali pirates release Bangladeshi ship MV Abdullah and crew after ransom negotiations

Sunday April 14, 2024

MV Abdullah. CREDIT / Vessel Finder

Mogadishu (HOL) — Early Sunday morning, the crew of the MV Abdullah, a Bangladeshi-flagged cargo ship, was freed from Somali pirates after an intense negotiation process that spanned several weeks. The ship and its 23 crew members had been held since March 12, when pirates hijacked the vessel approximately 600 nautical miles from Mogadishu, Somalia.

Kabir Group, the ship's owner, and Mizanul Islam, its media adviser, confirmed that the vessel is now en route to Dubai. "The sailors are in good health and relieved to be freed," Islam stated, announcing that further details will be disclosed at a press briefing later Sunday at the company's Agrabad office.

The sailors are reported to be in good health. They have maintained regular contact with their families, including video calls facilitated by diplomatic efforts. 

"The crew managed to make contact with SR Shipping and their families during the ordeal, conveying threats from the pirates demanding a ransom," reported bdnews24.com. After nine days of captivity, the ship's owners initiated negotiations through a mediator, leading to the ship's release following a successful ransom agreement.

The saga began in early March during the ship's voyage from Maputo, Mozambique, to the United Arab Emirates, carrying 55,000 tonnes of coal. Negotiations for the sailors' release gained momentum as Eid-ul-Fitr approached, with hopes rising for a resolution before the holiday.

Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud was actively involved, highlighting the government's commitment to ensuring the crew's safety. "We have made significant progress in negotiations and remain hopeful for an imminent resolution," Mahmud stated earlier this month.

The pirates initially demanded a $5 million ransom. However, the shipowner, Kabir Group, opted for negotiation over force, declining proposals from international navies and Somali security forces to storm the vessel, citing risks to crew safety and the volatile cargo.

The situation escalated when pirates armed the MV Abdullah with heavy artillery, responding to the proximity of EU naval forces by firing warning shots. This development prompted heightened concerns for the crew's well-being, who faced harsh conditions on board. "The pirates have heavily armed themselves, exerting pressure. But our focus has remained on securing a peaceful resolution," stated Mizanul Islam.

Throughout the ordeal, the presence of EU and Indian naval forces in the vicinity provided a subtle form of pressure on the pirates, even as direct military intervention was ruled out by both the Bangladeshi government and the ship's owners.

The incident marks another significant hijacking involving a Kabir Group ship, reminiscent of the 2010 MV Jahan Moni episode, which also ended with a paid ransom after months of negotiations. SR Shipping operates a fleet of 24 vessels, with the MV Abdullah among the latest additions. Islam added that the company will evaluate its security measures to prevent future incidents.

The release of MV Abdullah not only provides relief to the 23 Bangladeshi sailors and their families but also raises concerns about the long-term solutions required to secure shipping lanes in the piracy-prone Indian Ocean, a vital route for international trade. The hijackings have reignited discussions on maritime security measures and international cooperation to combat piracy. 


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