Sunday, June 23, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

MV Abdullah hijack: Sailor recounts harrowing ordeal of being hostage

  • MV Abdullah, 23 crew members freed on April 13
  • MV Abdullah was transporting around 55,000 tons of coal
Update : 22 Apr 2024, 10:48 PM

“I never thought that I would survive the pirates. I thought this was the end for me.”

This is what went through the mind of Mohammad Noor Uddin, a sailor (general steward) of MV Abdullah, who was released after being held hostage by Somali pirates for 31 days.

MV Abdullah anchored at Dubai Al Harmia Port in UAE around 4:30pm Bangladesh time on Sunday.

Recounting the difficult days, Noor who is from Chittagong's Karnaphuli upazila, said: “We encountered pirates around noon on March 12. At the time, we were en route to Dubai with 55,000 tons of coal from Maputo port in Mozambique. The pirates approached in a speedboat from a larger fishing vessel. Subsequently, four pirates boarded our ship using a speedboat. Initially, 12 pirates seized control of the ship, armed with heavy weaponry. We made desperate attempts to fend off the pirates from boarding the ship. The sea was eerily calm at the time. Even if there were significant waves, they couldn't have boarded our ship. However, with the ship’s low height from the sea surface for being loaded with 55,000 tons of coal, the ship provided easy access for the pirates.”

He said: “The pirates seized control of the ship, holding us hostage at gunpoint. They brandished modern weapons, aiming directly at our heads and chests. We feared for our lives at that moment. Following their instructions, the ship was redirected to the Somali coast, where additional bandits awaited our arrival. These new arrivals were armed with heavier weaponry than those initially on board. Around 35-38 bandits were present at that time, and more joined gradually.”

Noor Uddin elaborated: “The pirates constantly monitored us, instilling fear and panic by pointing their weapons at us. It felt as though any moment could be our last. They restricted our movements and prohibited us from peering outside the ship. We were never left unattended, as they harboured suspicions about any potential attempts to deceive them.”

He said: "Upon being captured by the pirates, a European Union warship approached our vessel closely. Even their helicopter circled us. However, the pirates remained unfazed by this presence. As the warship drew near, the pirates aimed their guns at us. The EU Navy instructed the pirates to leave our ship, counting down from one to ten. When the countdown finished, the Navy fired blank rounds. Despite this, the pirates continued to point their guns at us and demanded that the captain order the warship to depart. Eventually, the captain complied with their demands, and the EU Navy withdrew. Subsequently, an Indian Navy warship trailed our vessel. Whenever it attempted to approach, the pirates threatened to run our ship aground if they were attacked. They even menaced to take us to the coast."

Noor Uddin added: "Upon seizing us, the pirates confiscated all our mobile phones. They compiled a list of everyone on board and collected their phones, allowing each person to retain only one device. Some managed to conceal a second phone. I communicated with family and associates discreetly, avoiding the pirates' scrutiny."

He recounted: "The pirates consumed a type of wooden drug claiming it kept them awake for three days. Our entire Ramadan passed in captivity, observing Sehri and Iftar on board. Despite being Muslims, none of the pirates fasted or prayed, which struck me as odd. They were quite aggressive."

Sharing his ordeal further, Noor Uddin said: "Initially, the pirates treated us harshly, but later they became somewhat lenient. Upon our release, about 65 pirates disembarked from the ship, departing in a speedboat for the coast."

A resident of Chittagong's Karnaphuli upazila, Noor Uddin is married with a two-year-old child. He has been working on ships since 2015. Reflecting on his experience, he said: "I've never faced such grave danger before. At one point, I feared I wouldn't make it back alive. But by the grace of God, I survived. I've applied to return home from the Dubai port. Mentally, I'm quite fragile, perhaps due to the stress of the ordeal."

On April 13 at 12am Somali time (3am Bangladesh time), the MV Abdullah and its 23 crew members were freed from the pirates. Subsequently, the ship set sail for Dubai, ending a month-long ordeal for the sailors.

The vessel MV Abdullah is owned by SR Shipping, a part of the Kabir Group. According to SR Shipping sources, MV Abdullah was transporting around 55,000 tons of coal. Departing from the port of Maputo in Mozambique on March 4, the ship was scheduled to reach Harmia port in the United Arab Emirates on March 19. However, it fell into the hands of pirates in the Indian Ocean on March 12 around 1:30pm.

MV Abdullah is one of 24 ships owned by SR Shipping. Built in 2016, this bulk carrier measures 189.93 metres in length and 32.26 metres in width, with a draft slightly over 11 metres. Prior to being acquired by SR Shipping last year, the vessel was named Golden Hawk. Upon changing ownership, it was renamed MV Abdullah.

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