Seven Indian sailors, held captive by Somali pirates for nearly four months, were freed Monday following intense diplomatic negotiations.
The Indian men were among 18 crew members aboard the Italian-flag Enrico Ievoli, a chemical tanker captured by pirates Dec. 27, 2011, off the coast of Oman.
“The vessel is presently proceeding toward a safe port where the crew would disembark and be repatriated to their respective countries,” the Indian Shipping Ministry said.
The 2000-built Enrico Ievoli’s crew included six Italian and five Ukranian nationals, who were also released.
“The case of the Enrico Ievoli has been the focus of months of diplomacy with the Somali authorities, from which Italy urged a priority commitment to the safety of the Italian nationals concerned,” the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The tanker had been on its way from Iran to Turkey with a cargo of caustic soda when the attack took place approximately 215 nautical miles northeast of Salalah. The ship is owned by Naples-based Marnavi SpA.
Officials did not give any other details about the ship's release, including whether a ransom was paid.
The release of the Indian hostages comes as New Delhi introduced legislation in the lower house of Parliament Tuesday to prosecute pirates arrested by the Indian Navy or Coast Guard, irrespective of nationality.
“Given the increasing incidence of piracy, including within India's Exclusive Economic Zone, and the increasing number of pirates apprehended by Indian naval forces, a need was felt for a domestic legislation on piracy which could provide the necessary legal framework within the country for prosecution of persons for piracy-related crimes,” State External Affairs Minister E. Ahmed said.