Kidnapped Indonesian crewmen freed: piracy centre
Mon, Feb 23, 2009

SINGAPORE - Two Indonesian tugboat crewmen kidnapped by pirates in the Strait of Malacca last week were released on Monday, a Singapore-based piracy information centre said.

The two men "were finally released this late afternoon and arrangement (has) been made for them to return to their hometown to be reunited with their families after their traumatic experience," said a press release from the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre.

It said there were no immediate details on how their release came about. Twelve armed men in a small boat attacked the MLC Nancy 5 last Thursday while it towed a barge about 80 nautical miles west of Penang in Malaysia, the ReCAAP said.

The tug and 10 crew members were heading to Singapore from Mumbai when the pirates stole communications equipment, personal belongings and kidnapped the two crewmen, the statement said.

Until 2005 kidnappings of seafarers and vessels in the strategic Malacca Strait were rampant, making it the world?s top piracy hotspot.

But attacks are dramatically down thanks to better cooperation and joint patrols by the states which surround the narrow waterway. ReCAAP said that prior to the latest incident, the last kidnapping of a tugboat crew in the Malacca Strait was reported in August 2007.

"With the economic downturn, it is envisaged that there will likely be an increase in maritime crimes at sea," ReCAAP said.

ReCAAP, formed in 2006, is the first regional government-to-government agreement to enhance cooperation against piracy and maritime armed robbery.  

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