Filipino crew of tanker freed by Malaysian navy from pirates coming home soon

February 4, 2011 12:28 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Feb. 3 — All 23 Filipino crew members of a Malaysian-owned tanker, the “M/T Bunga Laurel,” that was attacked January 21 by pirates in the Gulf of Aden but soon rescued, have arrived with the vessel in Port Klang, near Kuala Lumpur.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) did not indicate when the Filipinos, who were receiving anti-stress care, are returning to Manila. Their statements were being taken in connection with the investigation of the pirates by Malaysian police.

The vessel was loaded with a cargo of lube oil from France and of ethylene chloride from Germany.

But elite forces of the Royal Malaysian Navy stormed the vessel after getting a distress call from the crew; an exchange of gunfire ensued. The navy was in the area escorting vessels with Malaysian interests.

Some of the pirates were reportedly injured while all the crew members were safe. The latter have gone inside a safe room and activated a distress call that caught the navy’s attention, a Malaysian newspaper said.

"M/T Bunga Laurel" arrived in Malaysia on January 31 and the Filipino crew was visited by Philippine embassy staffers on February 1.

The seven pirates who claimed to be Somalians were captured by the seven elite forces, who loaded them aboard the vessel to face authorities in Kuala Lumpur.

According to the DFA, the embassy team discussed their well-being as well as the benefits accruing them from their insurance and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

From the Malaysian side, the crew members will receive compensations for their personal belongings lost during the incident and de-stressing and psychiatric sessions to ease their trauma.” The crew members will also receive health care coverage in Manila.

The tanker refueled in Jeddah, then proceeded to the Gulf of Aden, north of the Indian Ocean, where it was boarded by the pirates.

The vessel was berthed in Port Klang under tight security as the pirates were being investigated. Singapore was its final port of destination. (PNA)

DCT/GJB

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