The European Union (EU) says Somali pirates are demanding a ransom for the release of a Sri Lankan- flagged oil tanker they seized off the coast of Somalia, while its forces were deployed to free the vessel yesterday morning (15).
A spokesman for the European Union Anti-Piracy Operations Force in the region announced in a statement they had made contact with the ship's master who confirmed that armed men were aboard the Comoros-based tanker Aris 13. Monday's hijacking was the first seizure of a large commercial vessel off Somalia since 2012.
Meanwhile, the identities of the eight Sri Lankan crew members were also released to the public. They are Nicolas Anthony (Captain), Ruwan Sampath, Dileepa Ranaweera, Sunil Perera, Lahiru Widanapathirana, Jayantha Kalubowila, Janaka Samendra and A. Shanmugam.
The Merchant Shipping Secretariat had confirmed last Tuesday (14) that eight Sri Lankans were on board the ship. A Somali pirate who said he was in touch with the armed men aboard the tanker said the amount of ransom to demand had not yet been decided.
The Associated Press reported that the armed men had locked most of the crew in one room and cut off communication lines.
The Aris 13, manned by eight Sri Lankan sailors, was carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, when it was approached by men in two skiffs. The EU statement said the ship's master issued a May Day alert.
The ship that was anchored on Tuesday off a town called Alula, was boarded by more armed men on Monday (13). The EU Naval Force said it had passed the information from its contact with the ship's master to the oil tanker's owners and an investigation was underway.
Sri Lanka's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was in touch with shipping agents and officials abroad for more information to help ensure the crew's "safety and welfare." The Ministry officials refrained from commenting on alleged ransom demands made by the pirates.