Captain, six crew members of hijacked ship return

After having spent 64 harrowing days with their Somali captors, hijacked merchant ship Stolt Valor’s Captain Prabhat Goyal and six other crew members reached home on Tuesday with some of them saying they were still ready to sail again if their families agreed.

“The experience was very bad. They tortured us mentally. But in the end, we are happy to be back safe,” an emotional and tired-looking Goyal told the waiting media at the Indira Gandhi International airport here.

All the 18 Indian crew members on board the Japanese ship have now returned to India with other batches having already back home. Goyal and six others arrived at the city’s International Airport from Muscat at about 0400 hours.

Recalling the experience, another crew member Rajinder Malik from Haryana, said: “The pirates tortured us mentally and physically. They often fired in the air to terrify us. Communication was another problem. The only words they uttered were ‘go’, ‘sit’ and ‘ok’.”

The crew survived on ‘dal’ and fish, he said, adding the pirates, numbering around 30 to 35, were so arrogant that they even fought among themselves.

The some of the crew members broke down as they met their relatives and friends at the airport. Seema Goyal, wife of the ship’s captain, said that the family plans to celebrate his safe return in a big way.

Despite having gone through a tormenting time at the hands of the pirates, some of the crew members were not against the idea of sailing again.

“If my family agrees, I will again go for my job in the seas. However, the Indian navy should take more steps to ensure the safety of vessels in high seas. We were happy when we learned that INS Tabar sank a pirate mothership,” Malik, said.

The ship was hijacked by Somali pirates on September 15 and the 22-member crew was kept hostage at the port of Eyl in Somalia for nearly two months until an undisclosed ransom was paid by the owners of the vessel.

Asked about the ransom, Goyal refused to comment saying, “it is confidential and kept a secret between me, ship owners and the pirates”.

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