Dubai: Nearly 17 months after the cargo ship MV Albedo was hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, the ordeal of its 21 surviving crew members seems to be coming to an end, as the pirates and families of the crew come to a deal.
Although, no ransom is being paid, the representatives of the families, led by senior political leaders from Pakistan have successfully negotiated with the pirates to pay the expenses incurred by them over the past 17 months.
The pirates had initially demanded a ransom of $10 million (Dh36.7 million), which the owner declined to pay and the families couldn't afford.
"We have been in contact with the pirates through the tribal leaders of Somalia for the past several months and we made it clear to them that we are unable to pay the ransom, but we have agreed to pay the expenses incurred by them over the last 17 months," said Ahmad Chinoy, Chief of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee in Sindh, Pakistan, who has been at the forefront of negotiations.
Chinoy along with the Governor of Sindh provice of Pakistan Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan and other senior leaders of Pakistan are to negotiate a deal through a Dubai-based Somali businessman, whose name was not revealed and tribal leaders in Somalia.
The two parties finally agreed on $50 per person per day as the expenses incurred by the pirates.
"Since the court of tribal elders ruled against the pirates and against paying any ransom, it forced them to ask for expenses as a last resort and finally we have reached on the figure of $50 per person per day. Considering around 100 people stayed on the ship for the entire period, the amount totals $2.85 million (Dh10.45 million)," said Dr Khan, speaking to Gulf News in Dubai on Tuesday.
Although the agreement has raised hopes of the families finally seeing their loved ones, there is still one obstacle to be overcome — arranging the amount and transferring it to the pirates within the April 20 deadline.
"So far we have no money but I hope we will be able to raise the funds as a lot people have shown interest in supporting our efforts and I hope more people will come forward," said Dr Khan, urging people to help raise the amount.
Nareman Javaid, the daughter of the vessel's captain Javaid Saleem, who has been active in rallying support to get the ship and its crew released also met the Governor on Tuesday and thanked him for his support.
Talking to Gulf News, following the meeting, Javaid said: "It has been the most difficult time for the families, many of them struggled to make ends meet without their sole breadwinners. We sincerely hope this deal will come through and hopefully we will be able to raise the agreed amount within the deadline."
Javaid last communicated with her father when she received an email from him saying the ship was being chased by the pirates.
"I can't wait to see him," was her only reaction to the news of her father's likely release in a month's time.
The cargo vessel was hijacked following a Hollywood-style chase on November 26, 2010.
Since then, one crew member, an Indian, has died from cholera. While the others, seven Pakistanis including the captain, seven Sri Lankans, six Bangladeshis and one Iranian have survived the ordeal, each losing 20kg to 30kg.
The pirates have agreed to refuel the ship and provide the supplies and provisions to reach the closest port.