Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

Pirate says Sirius Star crew safe

Sirius Star off the coast of Somalia (US Navy image via Getty Images)
The Sirius Star is the largest vessel seized by Somali pirates

One of the Somali pirates responsible for hijacking a Saudi oil tanker has told the BBC they have no intention of harming the 25 crew members on board.

The man, calling himself Daybad, also said pirates had not negotiated with the Sirius Star's owners, but spoken to intermediaries who "cannot be trusted".

The ship's Polish captain told the BBC that his crew were in good shape.

Meanwhile, a group of tanker owners has called on the UN to co-ordinate naval patrols off the coast of Somalia.

Peter Swift, head of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) suggested that warships could begin monitoring vessels leaving Somali waters, rather than attempting to patrol the entire Gulf of Aden and a significant part of the Indian Ocean.

'Not prisoners'

Daybad spoke to the BBC Somali Service via telephone from the Sirius Star, which is being held off the Somali coast.

He said that the ship's crew were being treated humanely.

"They are fine. We are treating them according to the charter of how you treat prisoners of war," he said.

"They are allowed to contact their families. The crew are not prisoners, they can move from place to place, wherever they want to, they can even sleep on their usual beds and they have their own keys."

Our fish were all eradicated so... we're going to fish whatever passes through our sea

"The only thing they are missing is their freedom to leave the ship," he added.

Daybad said that "no company" had yet made contact with the pirates, only people claiming to be intermediaries.

"These are people who cannot be trusted. We don't want to make contact with anyone who we can't trust," he said.

"We captured the ship for ransom, of course, but we don't have anybody reliable to talk to directly about it."

Daybad said that once genuine negotiations began they would seek "the usual asking price" but denied reports that they had been asking for a ransom of up to $25m (16.6m).

"That doesn't exist, there is nothing of the sort and we are warning radio stations and other people about broadcasting these unreliable stories," he said.

Daybad said the pirates were fully aware of the consequences of their actions, but the lack of peace in Somalia and the plunder of its waters by foreign fishing trawlers had driven them to piracy.

"Our fish were all eradicated so we can't fish now so we're going to fish whatever passes through our sea because we need to eat."

'No complaints'

The Sirius Star's captain, Marek Nishky, was also allowed to speak to the BBC by telephone although under the scrutiny of his captors.

"I would say there is not a reason for complaints," he said.


"We were given already the opportunity to talk to our families and today I was negotiating with a gentlemen here [about] another such possibility.

"I am promised it will be soon, today or tomorrow, my crew will again be allowed to talk to their families.

"As you can realise, these are the most important things for us now."

Meanwhile, the head of Intertanko - whose members own 75% of the world's tanker fleet - said many of its members were considering re-routing their ships around South Africa to avoid pirates, and that this would raise costs by 30%.

Mr Swift said continuing attacks would have a major impact on world trade, but that Intertanko opposed arming merchant ships to defend against pirates.

"The other option is perhaps putting a blockade around Somalia and introducing the idea of intercepting vessels leaving Somalia rather than to try to protect the whole of the Gulf of Aden," he said.

Mr Swift added that any such force would need robust rules of engagement, and aerial support.

The other option is perhaps putting a blockade around Somalia
Peter Swift

However, Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Monday that the alliance was not considering any naval blockade.

He said that such action has not been endorsed by the UN Security Council, adding: "This is, at the moment, not in the cards."

Nato has four warships on duty in the area.

In another development, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told a meeting of the European Union in Brussels on Monday that EU ships patrolling the area would use force to deter pirates if necessary.

"I would like to say on behalf of the European Union that the mission will have rules of engagement that will be robust, with all means to protect, to deter and it will include the use of force," he said.

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