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Crew of Ship Hijacked off Somalia is Safe, Captain Tells Japanese Owner


By Oliver Teves/AP Writer/Manila Friday, November 2, 2007


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The Filipino captain of a Japanese tanker seized by pirates off Somalia's coast has reconfirmed that the 23 crew members are safe, and the hijackers still have made no ransom demands, a Philippine official said Friday.

Restituto Bulilan phoned Japanese company Dorval Kaiun K.K., the owner of the hijacked chemical tanker, on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said.

"The captain of the kidnapped ship was able to contact the principal (the owners) in Japan to inform them that the crew is being treated well and that they are all safe," Conejos said.

The Golden Nori was hijacked Sunday off the Somali coast carrying 23 crew—nine Filipinos, two South Koreans and 12 Burmese citizens—and loaded with a chemical shipment headed for Europe.

The latest confirmation of the crew's safety backs up information given to their families Wednesday, Conejos said.

Josefina Villanueva—the sister of the crew's Filipino supervisor, 48-year-old Laureano Villanueva—told the AP in Manila on Thursday that the pirates let Bulilan call his wife and relay the message that "nobody aboard the boat was harmed."

"The pirates are still on board with the crewmen. They cannot leave," the supervisor's sister said, citing information provided by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

"For us, that is the most important thing—the condition of the crew," Conejos told The Associated Press on Friday.

Redentor Anaya, vice president for operations of SeaCrest Maritime Management Inc., which recruited the Filipino crew for the Golden Nori, said the captain called the Japanese ship owner on Wednesday, the same day he called his family in the Philippines, to say they were all safe.

"The crew are OK, so far, but we don't know what the demands of the pirates are," Anaya told the AP.

Conejos also said he knew nothing about a ransom.

"There was no information about that," the foreign affairs undersecretary said.

Anaya said his company has had no direct contact with the crew.

On Sunday, a US destroyer fired at and destroyed two pirate boats tied to the Golden Nori, which is loaded with highly flammable benzene, and the US Navy has been tracking it since.

Conejos earlier said the Philippine government was "doing everything" to save the crew, but that there had been no direct contact between Manila and the pirates.

"The problem is there is no central government in control (in Somalia)," he said.

After 16 years of violence and anarchy, Somalia is now led by a UN-backed transitional government battling to establish authority and challenged by an Islamic insurgency. Its coasts are virtually unpoliced.

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