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Crew of Hijacked Bangladeshi Bulker Return Home After Long Voyage

Abdullah during hijacking
Image courtesy EUNAVFOR

Published May 14, 2024 3:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The bulker Abdullah, which was captured and released by Somali pirates earlier this year, has returned safely to Bangladesh with all 23 members of her crew. The vessel arrived at the port of Chittagong on Monday evening, and the crew were welcomed by their families and loved ones when they arrived at the pier on Tuesday.

Abdullah was hijacked off the coast of Puntland in March while on a voyage from Mozambique to the UAE with a load of coal. The crew and the ship were held for 33 days while the pirates negotiated a ransom agreement with the shipowner and insurer. The hijackers told Reuters that they were paid $5 million to let the hostages go, or about $220,000 per crewmember. They divided the loot amongst themselves and departed; Puntland police forces claim that several of the pirates were arrested soon after they left the ship. 

The Abdullah's owner, SR Shipping, confirmed to AFP that a "deal" had been reached with the pirates. The kidnap-for-ransom business remains lucrative for Somali criminals: In the heyday of maritime crime in the region, from 2005-2012, pirates netted about $400 million, according to World Bank estimates. 

Despite their ordeal in captivity, the Bangladeshi crew still had a commercial voyage to carry out, and they completed it. From Somalia they transited to the UAE to offload their cargo of coal, then loaded a Bangladeshi-bound cargo of limestone and got under way for a two-week journey home. 

The local Daily Star reported a boisterous, joyous celebration at the pier as the crew disembarked from a lighter vessel at Chittagong's New Mooring Container Terminal. "Our life has been renewed. I thought we would never see him again but by the grace of God, he returned to me," said Jannatul Ferdous, wife of ship's steward Mohammad Noor Uddin.

Chittagong's mayor was on hand to greet the crew, along with the head of the port authority and the CEO of SR Shipping. 

The crewmembers said that they were more than glad to be home, and that the experience of the hijacking was frightening. "The pirates were heavily armed and desperate, leading us to be constantly anxious and fearful," oiler Mohammad Shamsuddin told Daily Star. "We used to pray in the ship at gunpoint."