Last two hijacked sailors return home after Iranian ordeal

The last two sailors who were detained in Iran after being hijacked on board an oil tanker arrived home in India this week.

The UN said the 28-man crew on-board the MT Gulf Sky tanker were hijacked on July 5 and told to sail for Iran.

Days after arrival in Bandar Abbas, a port on the Strait of Hormuz, all but two of the ship’s crew were flown back to Mumbai. The pair that remained were without passports and had to stay in Tehran.

The ship’s Indian captain, Joginder Singh, told The National the last two, a chief engineer and an able seaman, arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday morning.

“The crew have been in fear of their lives,” said David Hammond, chief executive of Human Rights at Sea, an international welfare charity for seafarers, of the ordeal in Iran.

“From the numerous statements taken, the video testimony calls that have occurred these past six days and the personal engagement we have had, undoubtedly the crew have been through a traumatic experience.

Satellite images showed the vessel in Iranian waters on July 15.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of a $12 million (Dh44m) money laundering operation to purchase the tanker, formerly named the MT Nautica. Court documents in the US alleged a smuggling scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as the country’s national oil and tanker companies.

In a wider humanitarian crisis, many more crew around the world await instructions to return to shore after months of inaction.

About 200,000 seafarers have been stuck at sea during the coronavirus pandemic as the shipping industry ground to a halt.

Tight restrictions on international borders prevented crew changeovers, leaving thousands of sailors stuck on ships for twice as long as contracts allowed.
Source: The National

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