India on Wednesday said it is in constant touch with its missions in Seychelles and Nairobi to work out steps to rescue nearly 100 Indian sailors who were on six dhows seized by pirates off the Somali coast.

“We are in constant touch with our Naval attache at Seychelles and Nairobi for rescue operations of the Indian crew and Gujarat-based vessels. As per latest information with us eight ships have gone missing off Somalia’s coast and five or six have been seized by pirates. The total number of crew is 97,” Director General Shipping, Government of India, Lakshmi Venkatachalam told PTI over phone from Mumbai.

“About eight cargo vessels from Gujarat were reported missing on Saturday off the Somalia coast including from areas where they were prohibited to tread as per our sources”, Ms. Venkatachalam said.

She said the Government is trying to locate the whereabouts of about eight missing vessels and had taken a series of steps for the rescue operation. The exact location of the vessels, she said, could not be revealed but information indicated that vessels had reached some ports which were not allowed for traders.

Normally, if merchant ships go missing there are electronic alert systems, recording etc but these were different type of vessels and information about these have reached us from local sources, she added

Ms. Venkatachalam said the Government has issued a notification prohibiting Indian Sailing vessels (dhows) to trade in piracy-infested areas.

“Recent reports of Indian Mechanised sailing vessels (dhows) missing or attacked by pirates, off the coast of Somalia have raised concern regarding the safety and security of such vessels engaged on trade in these areas,” the notification said.

The risks involved in the piracy infested areas around Somalia are well known and trading of Indian dhows in such areas exposes the lives of Indian seafarers sailing on these vessels to danger. Further, the Directorate has received reports that such hijacked dhows may be used by the pirates for carrying out piracy attacks on merchant vessels, it added.

Shipping Secretary K. Mohandas told PTI that so far there were no further updates on the fate of the Indian crew members taken hostage by the pirates.

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