Bulgarian Sailors in Dire State as UK Firm Aborts Talks with Somali Pirates

Diplomacy | May 6, 2010, Thursday // 12:02|  views

The UK-flagged tanker St. James Park which was hijacked on 29 December 2009 in the Gulf of Aden by Somali pirates while on its way to Thailand from Spain. Photo by EPA/DEREK LILLEY

Bulgarian sailors from the St. James Park ship are on their last legs as the negotiations for their release with the Somali pirates have stalled.

Almost 5 months after their kidnapping, the five Bulgarian sailors and the rest of the crew of the tanker are eating rotten rice and flour supplied to them by their Somali captors, and have to catch fish from the ocean in order to survive, revealed Vanya Teneva, wife of the cook of St. James Park, Stevlozar Tenev, as cited by Darik Radio.

According to Teneva who quoted the Bulgarian crew members of the tanker, the vessel’s owner, the UK firm Zodiac has refused to settle with the Somali pirates and has broken off the negotiations for the release of the ship and the sailors.

Teneva said that in mid March the pirates started to collect their baggage off the ship, and told the sailors that they reached an ransom agreement with the operator.

However, they came back furious shortly afterwards because the UK company Zodiac renounced the deal.

“There are no negotiations going on. Zodiac refuses to negotiate with the pirates. We are convinced that Zodiac is manipulating us, and that the pirates are manipulating the sailors,” explained Teneva.

She stressed what she learned from her kidnapped husband, namely that the St. James Park crew ran out of food months ago, and that the fuel reserves of the ship were over in April.

Tanker St. James Park was hijacked on December 29, 2009, with five Bulgarians among its crew. A total of 13 Bulgarians are held hostage by the Somali pirates as the Asian Glory cargo ship was hijacked on January 1, 2010, with 8 Bulgarians among the other sailors.

The only other case of Bulgarian sailors kidnapped off Somalia was with the Malaspina Castle ship in the spring of 2009. The Somali pirates released the ship and the crew with a couple of months in exchange for a ransom of USD 900 000.

A total of 17 ships and 340 sailors are being held by Somali hijackers at present. Estimates show that in 2009, Somali pirate groups received USD 60 M of ransom money in total.

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Tags: St. James Park tanker, St James Park, Asian Glory, Zodiac, somali pirates, Hostages, hijacked, ransom, Vanya Teneva, Svetlozar Tenev, negotiations


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