SC notice to Centre on plea for effective anti-piracy steps

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation petition for expediting the release of seamen held hostage by Somali pirates since March 2012.

In his petition before a Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal also sought a direction to the Centre to frame and implement effective anti-piracy guidelines in a proper and timely manner.

The petitioner said that on March 2, 2012 pirates seized 22 crew members, 17 of them Indian, aboard chemical tanker “Royal Grace” and sailed towards the Coast of Somalia. Despite several representations by their relatives to the President of India, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the External Affairs and Shipping Ministries, the situation had remained unchanged.

In another incident the same month, armed pirates hijacked cargo ship “ICEBERG 1” (flag state — Panama) in the international waters of East Africa and took hostage 24 crew members, including six Indians, and thereafter sailed to the Somali coast. It has now become the longest-held ship by Somali pirates, according to the petitioner.

As per information available on the website of the International Maritime Organisation, on May 10, 2012 tanker “SYMRNI” (flag state – Liberia) was seized in the international waters in the Arabian Sea. Ten pirates on two skiffs armed with automatic weapons chased the tanker, which evaded them by enforcing anti-piracy measures.

However, in a second attempt, the pirates managed to board and hijack “SYMRNI” and took hostage 26 crew members, who included 11 Indians.

The petitioner said it was a very sad state of affairs that not a single Indian seaman had been released in these three incidents.

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