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Family presses for seaman's release

Christian sailor held hostage by Somali pirates since September

  • Vincent D Souza, Chennai
  • India
  • May 4, 2011
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The family and relatives of a sailor from the south Indian seaport of Tuticorin who is said to be held captive by Somali pirates have petitioned the Indian government to seek his release.

On May 2 the group met the local district collector and handed over a petition.

They said the sailor, named Deniston, who is from the local Christian community, has been held hostage with other seamen on the ship MV Asphalt Venture since last September.

The pirates had taken 15 sailors from the ship off the African coast and last month released some of them after a deal was reached with the ship's owners.

But the pirates have retained the rest of the captives because the Indian Navy had recently intercepted and arrested a large number of Somali pirates who are now in jail in India.

Deniston's father was quoted by local media as saying that he did not know the whereabouts of his son.

Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu is a thriving fishing port and has a large community of sailors.

Pastor Simon, chaplain of the town's Mission to Seafarers, says that though there have been many cases of sailors who complain about work related issues, this is the first time that a case of detention by pirates has come to his attention.

Chennai-based Manoj V. Joy, an ex-mariner who runs a magazine and a helpline for seamen, said bodies like his cannot handle piracy issues. He wants the government to take drastic action against the pirates.

"I was at the hearing of a sailor-related case in the Supreme Court last week and the judge asked the state lawyers what the state was doing about Indian sailors held captive by pirates," he said.

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