Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – After five months in the hands of Somali pirates as hostages, the chances for the release of 23 sailors are still slim as negotiations between a Liberia-registered shipping line and the pirates have stalled, said sources with the Rangoon-based St. Johns Ship Management Company.
‘The head office is still negotiating with the pirates. We cannot say when the hostages will be released. Negotiations are still underway’, the source told Mizzima.
The Liberia-registered M.V. Panama cargo ship with 23 Burmese sailors was detained by pirates on December 10, 2010.
The company declined to provide more details about the hostages, contact with their families, or their health situation. The company said that the sailors’ salaries were being paid to their families as usual.
The M.V. Panama was detained when it was heading to Mozambique’s Baiyer port from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
Min Zaw, the general secretary of the Myanmar Overseas Seafarers Association (MOSA), said that the hostages might suffer psychological impact during their long hostage period but their lives were not in danger.
'They have not been released because negotiations about paying the ransom money haven’t been successful. The pirates are playing this game of reaping more profits. They rarely endanger the lives of the hostages. Fear and anxiety usually develop for hostages, and that could have a psychological impact on the sailors’, Min Zaw said.
Merchant vessels usually take the shortest route to the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen in East Africa to save costs. Somali pirates frequently attack the vessels running on this route.
Burmese sailors try to avoid this dangerous sea lane but the scarcity of jobs in Burma compel them to work this route.
‘Our Burmese sailors are not in position to refuse. If they refuse, they could starve. They are in a “take it or leave it” situation in this profession’, Min Zaw said.
He said four armed guards are now stationed on each vessel running this sea lane to enhance security.
Similarly, Somali pirates detained the M.V.Gemini, owned by Singapore-based Glory Shipping Management, with three Burmese sailors on board on April 30. The negotiations for the release of the ship and sailors are still ongoing. There are three Burmese sailors, 13 Indonesian sailors and four Korean sailors on the vessel.