New Delhi: Sixteen Indian crew members on board the oil tanker MT Heroic Idun, who were detained by Nigeria, have been released and they have reached Kochi. They were detained since August 2022 first in Equatorial Guinea and later in Nigeria. The crew members reached India last night.
According to sources, the Indian government, through its Mission in Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria, and in bilateral meetings, took up the matter with the respective foreign authorities at various level. They were pressed for an early resolution of the issue and repatriation of the Indian crew members.
Following intervention of the Nigerian government, the crew were allowed to remain on board the ship with provision of regular food, instead of being taken to a detention center of land. They were also allowed periodic contact with their families. Indian Mission officials remained in regular touch with the crew and also provided consular access to the detainees on numerous occasions.
The MT Heroic Idun and its Indian crew were accused of various crimes including oil theft and “falsely accusing” the Nigerian Navy of piracy.
The Indian Mission also worked with shipping company for legal representation to be arranged for the crew. It was conveyed to the Nigerian authorities that there had been no oil theft, as necessary permissions had apparently been accorded and the crew was not privy to the decisions of the operations.
Following lengthy negotiations by Indian Mission all charges against the crew were dropped and the ship was released on May 27 after payment of fines. The detainees arrived at Kochi Airport in Kerala on Saturday night and were welcomed by their families and Indian authorities.
Sanu Jose, one of the crew members, thanked the Indian government and Kerala government for the help. He said he is happy to be home with the children.
Another sailor, V Vijith, said the Union government made a “tremendous effort” and “did a great job” in getting all the sailors released.