The hijacking of a tanker with 21 Indian sailors on board by suspected Somali pirates near the Port of Oman on Saturday takes the total number of hijacked seafarers on foreign ships and Indian/foreign flag mechanised sailing vessels to nearly 500 over the last three years.

In captivity

The number of hijacked crew on foreign flag ships and Indian/foreign mechanised sailing vessels since August 21, 2008, stands at 468, out of whom 51 are still in captivity, said a statement from Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan in the Rajya Sabha early this month.

Between January and August this year, the total number of Indian sailors hijacked was nearly 90.

Mr. Vasan said an inter-ministerial group of officers had been set up to deal with the hostage situation.

Naval escort

He also reiterated the banning of sailing in waters south or west of the line joining Salalah and Male and the arrangement for naval escort of ships in the Gulf of Aden. The Minister also said that the Navy had enhanced vigil in India's exclusive economic zone and westward.

India is already part of the Contact Group of Piracy off the Coast of Somalia meetings, which is an initiative by the United Nations.

Nine Indian nationals were among the 21 sailors aboard m.v. Sinin, a 52,000-tonne Malta-flag bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates in February and released in the second week of August. The ship had come under attack from the pirates off Masirah in Oman while sailing to Singapore from the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

More In: National | News | Kochi