Pirates Want $5M and Threaten to Kill Crew as Bulker is Taken to Somalia

Unconfirmed reports are the Abdullah will reach Somalia on Thursday morning (file photo)

Published Mar 13, 2024 1:19 PM by The Maritime Executive


The pirates that boarded the Bangladesh-owned bulker Abdullah (58,000 dwt) have reportedly threatened the lives of the crewmembers if their ransom demands are not met. Government officials cautioned however that they have not yet been able to make contact with the boarders and expected that the ship would first be taken to a safe area before communication would be established. 

Several government officials speaking with the local media said everything was being done at all levels of government and through international partners including India for the safe return of the crewmembers. They said however they did not have any information about the media reports that family members were told the lives of the crew are being threatened.

Media reports are saying the Abdullah’s Chief Officer messaged family reporting the pirates said, “If the ransom is not paid, the crew will be shot dead one by one.”

Unconfirmed media reports from family members also said the pirates had told the crew they wanted $5 million from the government for the release of the ship. Reports are now saying that there are believed to be 22 pirates aboard the vessel with crewmembers telling family members the pirates have “heavy arms and ammunition.”

Crewmembers were able to communicate with families before reporting that the pirates were confiscating mobile phones. They said that the crew had been rounded up and were being locked in a room with their phones taken. Officials from the company however said they had been able to make brief contact on Wednesday morning a day after the vessel was taken and that the crew was safe and physically unharmed. There are 23 Bangladeshi crewmembers aboard.

The Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers Association told local media that through the use of international resources they had been able to locate the ship approximately 170 nautical miles east of Somalia although the pirates disabled the AIS signal and other systems that would permit tracking the ship. Initially, the ship was making just 5 knots but later Wednesday they reported it has increased speed to between 11 and 14 knots. The Abdullah appears bound for Garakad, Somalia, the same general area where the bulker Ruen was taken after it was seized in December 2023.

Based on current data, they are estimating the ship will arrive in Somalia on Thursday morning. The ship had been traveling from Mozambique with 58,000 tonnes of coal bound for the UAE. Officials of SR Shipping Line, a division of KSRM Group (Kabir Steel and Rerolling Mill) said they were in close coordination with the government. They had notified the international authorities after they heard from the ship’s officers midday on Tuesday that the ship was being boarded. 

So far, the only communications the government said are through second parties. It was noted that another Bangladeshi vessel, the Jahan Moni, was taken in December 2010. The crew was recovered they said unharmed after 100 days.

The EU operation which for the past 15 years has been monitoring maritime security in the western Indian Ocean, EUNAVFOR Atalanta reports one of the vessels in its force is currently shadowing the bulker. Command for the operation said they are taking the lead and have been in contact with both Bangladeshi and Somali authorities. They are also coordinating with partners including the Indian Navy, which was successful in disrupting two previous attempted hijackings in 2024. They acknowledged the vessel is sailing toward the Somali coast and that "the action is ongoing."