Seven pirates' hostages arrive in Shanghai

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, who boarded their Tawian-registered ship, 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 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, but negotiations failed.

The returning 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 sea water onto them. But as the months went by the situation improved and crew members were able to trade personal items for cigarettes. They also taught their captors some Chinese words, such as 'xie xie' (thank you) and 'ni hao' (hello), the Southern Metropolis News reported.

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 standing on deck.

Finally, 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 give the crew any food or fuel but thanks to a supply 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 mainlanders 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.

'I'm in very bad mood now and crave to go home,' Xu said. 'I have never committed any criminal act, why do they detain me and won't let me go?'

He said Chinese embassy officials had given them some fruit, instant noodles and tea, but had told the pair they did not know when they would be allowed to leave because it was the first such situation they had to deal with.

The seven fishermen who returned were on their way to their hometowns in Henan , Zhejiang and Sichuan yesterday. Some said they planned to demand back pay from the labour agencies that got them the jobs.

The dad of Mu Wenbing, a 24-year-old from Sichuan working as chef on the ship, said he had not spoken to his son yet.

'I have been worrying about him day and night for the past nine months. At first I was against him to taking the job on the ship and going abroad, but he insisted saying that the job paid much money,' he said.

I have never committed any criminal act, why do they detain me and won't let me go?

Xu Jianxing, an engineer on the ship, who has had to stay in Colombo

Long reach

The Taiyuan No 227 was hijacked by pirates this distance in nautical miles off the coast of Somalia: 1,000