Indian sailors detained in Equatorial Guinea send SOS

Sixteen Indians, who have been in the custody of Equatorial Guinea’s navy for three months, have appealed to Indian government to help them return home.

While India has assured their families that it was making efforts for their safe return, the sailors continued to share messages and videos, saying their situation was growing desperate.

Equatorial Guinea detained the cargo ship, MT Heroic Idun, in mid-August. The Indians are part of a multinational crew of 26 sailors. The ship is managed by Norway’s OSM Maritime Group.

“The vessel and its 26 multinational crew members have now been detained in Equatorial Guinea for more than 80 days,” CEO Finn Amund Norbye said in a statement earlier this week.

“The seafarers have been treated as criminals, without any formal charges or legal process for close to three months,” he alleged. “It is nothing short of a shocking maritime injustice.”

The ship’s crew was en route to pick up crude oil from Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria before heading to deliver it in Rotterdam, Holland.

Sapna Trehan, wife of the ship’s master, Tanuj Mehta, said at Nigeria’s AKPO terminal, the ship was told to leave after officials insisted they had no information about their arrival.

As the ship moved towards Equatorial Guinea, it was followed by a vessel claiming to be from the Nigerian navy which alerted Equatorial Guinea, Ms Trehan’s husband told her, adding that the ship was detained on arrival there.

Documents filed in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea said the Equatorial Guinea navy followed a maritime code of conduct and detained the vessel on an alert sent by the Nigerian naval vessel.

Since then, the crew had recorded videos and made phone calls to their families, begging for help.

The government of Equatorial Guinea has not publicly commented on the crew’s detention yet. The BBC has reached out to them for comment.

“The Norwegian (ship) owners also paid €2m ($2.03m; £1.74m) because the ship had not put up the Equatorial Guinea flag when it was in its territorial waters,” Capt Sukhpal Singh, a mariner and friend of the ship master, told BBC Hindi. -BBC

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