As many as 28 Indian sailors, who were held by Somali pirates, have been rescued and will return home soon, Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan said on Saturday.

Addressing reporters at the conclusion of 121 meeting of the National Shipping Board, he said that still nine sailors were in the captivity of the pirates and the Centre was continuing efforts to sustain earnest passageway for them. “They will also be rescued sooner or later,” he added.

Asked whether any ransom was paid to secure the release of Indian sailors, Mr. Vasan said it was a discreet co-ordinated operation carried out by the Shipping Ministry, External Affairs, Home Affairs, Defence and Director General of Shipping and hence information could not be shared. However, everyone should be happy that the sailors have been rescued safely.

In fact, two days ago, the family members of the sailors staged a dharna in New Delhi seeking early release of the sailors and at that time Mr. Vasan personally assured them the sailors would return home safely, following which they called off their protest.

According to Mr. Vasan, 17 Indian sailors were on the board of M.V. Royal Grace (Panama flag) which was hijacked on March 2, 2012 and 11 on M.T. Symyi (Liberia flag) that was hijacked on May 10, 2012. “Due to the continuous vigil, the incidents of hijacking have come down drastically and there was not even a single incident for the last 10 months,” he said. However, sources said 15 sailors were on the board of M.V. Iceberg1 (Panama flag), M.T. Asphalt Venture (Panama flag), M.V. Albedo (Malaysia flag) since March 2010.

At the 120 meeting of NSB, Directorate General of Shipping, Nautical Surveyor-cum-Deputy DG (Tech), Captain H. Khatri, said in the last nine months of 2012-13, piracy had been the lowest since 2009, but the bad news is that several incidents are being reported on the Nigerian coast. Somali pirates hijack ships for ransom, while Nigerian pirates robbed cargoes of oil and chemical tankers.

He also informed that the Government was considering deployment of Central Industrial Security Force as armed guards on Indian ships.

Commander Coast Guard District 3, New Mangalore Port, DIG, R.M. Sharma, said that till date the Indian Navy had foiled 40 piracy attempts and no ship under Indian escort was hijacked.

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