Shipping firm negotiating with pirates for crew release

Indian High Commissioner to Singapore T C A Raghavan said Pacific International, the shipping company, told him that it was negotiating with the hijackers. "The High Commission is in touch with the company. The company has also said that its officials would visit families of all the crew onboard and meet them," Raghavan said over phone from Singapore. He said the company also assured that it will do whatever it takes to ensure that the crew is safe and released.

The ship MV Kota Wajar was hijacked by Somali pirates on October 15 in the Indian Ocean about 500 kilometers north of the Seychelles island. No reports were immediately available and calls to the International Maritime Bureau's International Piracy Centre here went unanswered since Saturday. Coalition forces, which are patrolling waters nearby, have sent an aircraft looking for the ship.

Shipping sources in Singapore said normally negotiations with the Somali pirates after a hijack could take up to two months before the vessel and crew were released. "It all depends on the demand made and the pace of negotiations," an official with a Singapore-based shipping line said.

Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since 1991 and piracy has flourished off its coast, making the Gulf of Aden one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. Pirate attacks around the world have more than doubled to 240 during the first six months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

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