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Captain family awaits word

The Alipore-based family of Shishir Wahi, captain of the Turkish merchant ship hijacked by pirates off the west-central African coast, has not received any information since an email from him on Sunday afternoon.

“We replied to his email without knowing that the ship had been hijacked near Gabon. When we came to know about the pirate attack (late on Sunday), we tried calling him on his cell phone but could not get through. The phone has been showing switched off or unreachable,” said Richa Wahi, the 64-year-old skipper’s daughter.

The family has been in touch with the Mumbai-based company that hired Wahi, who had boarded MV Cotton on July 11 at Port Gentil in Gabon and took charge as captain the next day. He had left Calcutta on July 5.

“His contracts would be of four months, generally. He started sailing in July after a four-month break,” Richa said.

“Company officials told us that they have not received any ransom call from the pirates. If the pirates are after the ship’s goods, they will loot and abandon ship in a week,” she added.

The incident marks a shift in pirate attacks from the Somalian coast in the east to Africa’s western coastline.

“It is unusual for attacks to occur in this region and, in fact, there have been no reported attacks in the past five years,” reads a statement from the ship Genel Denizcilik Nakliyati A.S. (Geden Line), the Turkish company that operates MV Cotton.

The vessel, manned by an all-Indian crew of 24, was carrying chemicals. A PTI report says Geden Line has not been able to contact any crewmember since the pirates took over the vessel three days ago.

A senior official of V-Ships, the company that manages the crew, said there has been no word from those on board the ship but “every effort is being made to secure the safe return of the crew”.

An official at the Directorate General of Shipping told PTI that “contact with the ship has not been established”. Wahi is an alumnus of Sainik School, Purulia. He started sailing at the age of 16.