NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – The captain of an arms-laden Ukrainian cargo hijacked by Somali pirates has appealed in an interview for the ship’s owner to engage in direct talks with the pirates and end the crew’s three and a half month ordeal.
Speaking on satellite phone from the MV Faina over the weekend, Vladimir Nikolsky complained that no direct contact had been made by the ship’s Israeli owner with the pirates’ leader since the vessel was seized on September 25.
"I think Vadim Alperin, the real ship owner, doesn’t know the real situation… The owner’s representative I think has been hiding information from him," Mr Nikolsky said to AFP, in his first interview since the hijacking.
The MV Faina is a Ukrainian ship operated under a Belize flag and carries 33 Soviet-type battle tanks as well as ammunition.
Captain Vladimir Kolobkov died in unclear circumstances on September 27 and was replaced by second mate Nikolsky.
The ship’s cargo sparked a controversy, with Kenya claiming that it was the intended recipient of the weapons but several other sources insisting the shipment was in fact destined for the forces of South Sudan.
Mr Nikolsky said that attempts to negotiate the ship’s release, involving a flurry of middlemen, had failed due to a lack of determination to free the crew.
"The leader of the pirates Mohammed Abdi is ready to establish contact with the ship’s owner and he now refuses to make any contact with any other party," he said.
Mr Nikolsky said the crew — consisting of two Russians, 17 Ukrainians and one Latvian — were decently treated by the group of pirates but stressed nevertheless that the months of captivity were taking their toll.
"They are staying in a small room without moving, without any physical exercise… Half of the crew is ill and the other half of the crew is going to go mad," he said.