It was on March 6 that we left from the Djibouti port which is located north of Somalia. This was to proceed to the Mogadishu Port. Aboard our ship the staff cadre numbered eight. All of them were Sri Lankans and there was over 1500 metric tonnes of diesel on board the ship.

“We travelled for about six days without any issue. On March 13, we saw a boat that came from the Somalia Port which had stopped en-route. Taking small boats from the vessel, a group of about 20 to 25 persons came to our ship without bearing arms. To inspect the ship they looked everywhere and asked us for water.

Ruwan Sampath Chief Officer
Ruwan Sampath
Chief Officer

Even though they did not have weapons we knew that these were Somali pirates. What they wanted to find out was whether there were military personnel protecting the ship on board. There were none and they left.

After a while they returned and boarded the ship firing their guns. They then took the ship under their control and by that time we felt something like this would take place.

The moment they took the vessel to the port we informed the company. We had already informed the company through the alarm system on the ship. There was however no way we could talk at length at that time.

The Somali pirates surrounded us and we had never seen some of the weapons they had on them. They took our vessel to the Somalian port and anchored it at a nearby town. Afterwards another group numbering 10 men joined in and at all times there was around 25 armed attackers. They took our phones and computers.

They could speak broken English. “We are taking you all. We don’t want to kill you. What we want is money,” they said.
We stayed there for a day and on the night of the second day after seeing the Somalian military they took the ship to another place.

Yet, on that occasion the military came to where we were and surrounded the ship. They were special military personnel deployed by the Somali Government to curb piracy. They surrounded us with two boats. On the third day, the military shot at the pirates. Both groups shot at each other. We were sleeping inside the ship. Initially, they didn’t allow us to go out but protected us. That was because they knew that if any harm befell us they would not get any money.

During this time we spoke to the company and there was food and drinks on the ship but no one was particularly keen on eating or drinking.

On the third day, the military continued to shoot at the pirates who then exposed us to the firing. When the Somali military saw us, the shooting stopped. On the next day the pirates told us that if we couldn’t get the shooting to stop, they would kill us and throw us into the sea. They took our third engineer blindfolded to the deck and told us that they would kill him and throw him into the sea and do the same to each and every one of us.  We then requested the Somali military to call off the firing while also calling on the company to intervene which marked the fourth day of captivity.

The shooting stopped and the two navy boats left although the military ship remained. In the meantime, from time to time, groups of Somalian pirates boarded and left the hijacked ship. Finally, we felt that someone in a high position had planned to take the ship to another location and demand the money.

But by 9 pm that night they had changed that decision probably realizing they (pirates) could not fight the Somali military as they were outnumbered. The pirates took the rest of the goods on board our ship as they had from time to time.

We then informed the rescue vessel that the pirates had fled the scene and military personnel numbering around 25 came along in four boats and took us away. The Somali governor also travelled with us to the port of Bosasco.

The eight of us had a firm belief that we would be saved and tried not to despair. The only time we panicked was when our engineer was taken away by the pirates. To our relief he returned unscathed.”