Lloyds List: 24 January – Liz McMahon: SEVEN Indian nationals hijacked along with Asphalt Venture in 2010 are still being held by pirates in Somalia, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Pirates released the 1991-built, Panama-flagged, 3,884 dwt vessel in April 2011 after a ransom of $3.6m was paid by then owners Bitumen Invest of Norway.
However, the pirates held the Indian crew members in retaliation for the arrest of Somali pirates by the Indian Navy.
Asphalt Venture had been held since late September 201o.
In February 2011 Nato identified Asphalt Venture as one of approximately 20 vessels being used as motherships by Somali pirates to mount attacks on commercial vessels.
Immediately after its release, Asphalt Venture was sold to Mumbai-based Lilly Maritime, flagged in Panama and classed by ClassNK.
The asphalt carrier, now named Bitu Gulf, sank in the South China Sea on January 20 and an investigation into the incident is now under way.
The crew’s families have campaigned for the seafarers’ release but in March 2012 Somalia Report said the pirate action group had said it would continue to hold the crew members until the Indian government released their pirate comrades.