Pirate ordeal carries on for two sailors stranded in Colombo

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 March, 2011, 12:00am

Seven mainland fisherman held hostage by Somali pirates for nine months have arrived in Shanghai.

However, two other crew members, Yu Feiyue and chief engineer Xu Jianxing, have had to stay in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo with the ship. Customs officers have told them they will be allowed to leave only when the ship is handed over to a new crew.

The Taiwan-registered Taiyuan No 227 was hijacked by pirates in early May while fishing for tuna about 1,000 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, Xu said. It was released by the pirates at the end of January.

The other 19 crew on board comprise seven Kenyans, four Indonesians, three Filipinos, three Vietnamese and two Mozambicans.

The pirates sought US$3 million from the ship's owner, Taiwanese resident Cai Mingxian, the China Youth Daily reported.

The fishermen, who landed at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Tuesday afternoon on a flight from Colombo, told media they had not been allowed to leave their ship, moored near a Somali port of Somalia, and were watched closely. The food was poor, consisting of mouldy rice, a little fish and no vegetables.

In their first few months of captivity, the pirates often beat them with ropes and threw cold seawater onto them. But as the months went by the situation improved and crew members were able to trade personal items for cigarettes.

The crew members said their worst moment came when the pirates forced them to stand on deck as hostages as foreign naval forces threatened to raid the ship.

On one occasion, shots were exchanged between the pirates and personnel aboard a military vessel while the hostages were on deck.

At the end of January, the pirates - despairing of getting any ransom from Cai, who had declared bankruptcy and transferred the ship to a Taiwanese bank - released the vessel.

The pirates did not leave any food or fuel. But, thanks to a cache of diesel hidden by Xu and Yu, they were able to reach Colombo in about six days, arriving on February 2.

They spent the next month trying to contact Cai for their wages and get him to take care of the ship. He has since disappeared. Xu said Cai owed him US$20,000.

On Tuesday, as the sailors were about to board a flight home, Xu and Yu were ordered to remain in Colombo until the ship was handed over to a new crew.