29 June 2019
Bhubaneswar: Odisha sailor Sudeep Chowdhary and four other Indian seafarers who had been held hostage in Nigeria have been released and will be returning to India soon.
Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, through his twitter account has thanked Nigerian authorities, staff of High Commission of India in Abuja, Nigeria and all other stakeholders who have contributed for their release.
Jaishankar further informed that they are being repatriated to India from Port Harcourt in Nigeria under escort of Nigerian police escort and representatives of Indian High Commission.
The news about their release had earlier been shared by Minister of State (MoS) for Shipping, Mansukh Mandaviya, who termed it as "Our commitment to protect each and every Indian working overseas."
Sudeep and four other sailors, Ankit Hooda, Chirag Yadav, Avinash Reddy and Moogu Ravi, had been kidnapped and taken ashore from the vessel 'MT Apecus' in the outer anchorage off Bonny Island, Nigeria at around 7 PM on April 19, 2019.
It was after the Directorate General of Shipping was reported about this incident on April 20, Standard Operating Procedures as per the applicable contingency plan was initiated and various agencies concerned were intimated of the said incident.
An Inter-Ministerial Group of Officers (IMGO), set up by the Government of India under the Ministry of Shipping to deal with potential maritime security situations arising out of any hijacking at sea of merchant's vessels with Indian crew, was convened to deal with the situation.
Ministry of Shipping through the Directorate General of Shipping continuously coordinated with various agencies to work towards the early release of seafarers. Ministry was also in touch with the family members to update them on the developments in a timely manner as well as give necessary support as required.
The High Commission of India, Abuja, Nigeria conveyed the details of the incident to the Nigerian Authorities due to which the Nigerian Navy boarded the vessel to secure the vessel as well as carry out an investigation of the incident. Also, the Regional Maritime Rescue & Coordination Centre, Nigeria (RMRCC) continued to assist in the matter.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), thereafter took the lead to coordinate Nigerian efforts for securing the release of kidnapped seafarers. In coordination with the Nigerian Police and Nigerian Navy, NIMASA deployed a team in the area, to try and expedite the safe release of the Indian nationals.
The Directorate General of Shipping also coordinated with owner of vessel MT Apecus as well as communicated to the Maritime Administration of Greece from where the owner operated its vessels, to coordinate the release of kidnapped seafarers.
The Directorate General of Shipping also took up the issue of piracy in the region with the International Maritime Organization and other international fora towards coordinating the efforts for eradication of this menace.
Mandaviya stated that, "I am happy to share that due to the sustained efforts of various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Shipping, the Directorate General of Shipping and the High Commission of India, Abuja, Nigeria, the kidnapped Indian seafarers were successfully released and have reached the safe custody of the authorities on 27.06.2019."
Meanwhile, Union Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has thanked Jaishankar and other stakeholders for their efforts in securing the release of the five Indian seafarers including Sudeep.
"Had taken up the issue with #MEA after receiving a distress appeal from Shri Pradeepta Kumar Chowdhary, a resident of Odisha whose son Sudeep, a Sailor 3rd Officer on the vessel ‘MT Apecus’ was kept hostage along with four other sailors from Haryana, Maharashtra & Andhra," he tweeted.