Vietnamese on hijacked boat could go home soon: official

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Efforts to rescue 12 Vietnamese sailors from a Taiwanese boat taken hostage by Somali pirates in late December are promising good dividends, an official says.

Dao Cong Hai, head of the Department of Overseas Labor Management at the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said Wednesday that the Taiwanese firm Jason Global Enterprise Co., Ltd., which owns the fishing boat Shiuh Fu-1, is close to reaching an agreement with the pirates.

Hai had said earlier that the pirates were asking for ransom, and everything depended on the negotiation between the pirates and the boat's management company.

Nguyen Manh Tuong, director of Hanoi Investment Trading & Services General JSC (Servico), which sent seven sailors to the boat, said the Taiwanese firm has managed to contact the sailors.

All 12 Vietnamese sailors, aged 19 to 24, are safe and living in healthy conditions, Tuong said. He said his company is still sending the sailors' salaries to their families as it did when they were working.

Ten of the Vietnamese crew hail from the north-central province of Nghe An, while the other two are from neighboring Ha Tinh Province. All the hostages' families had been informed of the hijacking.

The boat, with 26 crew members, was hijacked December 25 some 120 nautical miles off the north-east tip of the island of Madagascar, the EU's Operation Atlanta, a regional military operation, said in a statement.

On January 27, the Vietnamese cargo vessel Hoang Son Sun, with 24 sailors and 21,000 tons of iron ore, was seized by Somali pirates about 520 nautical miles South-east of Muscat, Oman.

The owner of the boat, Hoang Son Co. Ltd. from the northern city of Hai Phong, estimated that the pirates would ask for US$5 million in ransom for the release of the ship and its crew.

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