NOIDA: The families of 17 Indians, who were among a crew of 22 on a Nigeria-bound oil tanker, have just been told that the ship was captured by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman more than a month ago.

Recruitment agents said talks were on between the pirates and shipping company for the crew’s release. The ship, MT Royal Grace, reportedly on its maiden voyage, was hijacked on March 4.

Family members of the crew said they were informed about the capture only a few days ago.

Manu Chauhan, CEO of East India Shipping Agency which recruited five of the Indian crew members, told TOI the ship’s Dubai-based owners, Oyster Cargo and Shipping Company, had informed the government’s DG (shipping) and was also keeping families of the crew members updated.

Talks were continuing between the East India Shipping Agency and Somali pirates for the release of the firm’screw.

“Our agency is dependent on Dubai-based agents for information. Whatever the agents feed us, we are passing to the crew members’ families. I am trying to go to Dubai as soon as possible to get more information,” said Manu Chauhan, CEO of the shipping firm.

Said a shipping agency official, “On March 2, we were alerted that there was an attack on the ship and later it was confirmed that the ship had been taken by pirates on March 4. As per information which we have received from Dubai, the ship was reportedly held off the coast near the town of Garacad in Somalia.”

Somali pirates hold 21 ships, 289 hostages

Apart from the Indians, he said, the ship had three Nigerians and one Pakistani and Bangladeshi national each. With this, Somali pirates are now holding 21 vessels and have 289 hostages.

Family members of the crew said they were worried about the safety of their loved ones, some of whom were at sea for the first time.

“The MT Royal Grace set off from Sharjah for Nigeria with a crew of 22, including my brother-in-law Midhun Kottekatin Chandran. He had told us that the ship would be moving out of mobile network coverage area for about 10 days. That was the last we heard from him. After more than a month, we received a call from East India Shipping Agency officials who told us about the ship’s capture,” said Sachin Singh, a relative of one of the crew members.

He said his brother-in-law joined the company in January. “This was the first time he was travelling on a ship. We were earlier told the name of the ship was Royal Lady but it was reportedly sold to another company and its name changed. Midhun’s father is also in the merchant navy and is at present on a ship near Qatar. He is likely to reach Mumbai next week.

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