NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CN) – Two seamen claim in Federal Court that Somali pirates held them hostage for eight months after their employers sent them into pirate-infested waters without adequate security.
Bahri Chirag and Dangwal Sandeep sued Marida Tankers, Heidmar Inc., MT Marida Marguerite Schifffahrts and XYZ Ship Owner / Ship Employer on six claims, including negligence, unseaworthiness, and emotional distress.
The men were second assistant engineers on the Marida Marguerite tanker, which is owned and managed by Marida Tankers and Heidmar.
“On or about May 8, 2010, the subject vessel was in the Gulf of Arden en route from Kandla, Gujarat to Antwerp, Belgium when Somali pirates hijacked the subject vessel,” the complaint states.
Chirag and Sandeep say they endured eight months of physical, mental abuse and torture while the owners of the ship negotiated for their release.
The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 requires owners and operators of “vessels and facilities that the Secretary believes may be involved in a transportation security incident” to prepare a security plan “for deterring a transportation incident to the maximum practicable,” the complaint states.
But Chirag and Sandeep say the defendants failed to submit a security plan for normal scenarios, and for situations including pirates and hostages.
They claim the defendants violated the Jones Act by ordering the ship through “pirate-infested waters,” failed to procure adequate security for the ship, failed to report the incident to the U.S. Coast Guard in a timely manner, and “failed to conduct negotiations with the pirates in an adequate and/or timely manner.”
They claim the ship was not seaworthy in that “the vessel did not have adequate security, including, but not limited to, weapons and/or non-lethal methods of resisting intruders generally and pirates specifically … the vessel did not have a ship security system” and “the vessel and/or its crewmembers did not have an adequate security plan in according with the MTSA and the United States Coast Guard.”
“Under the General Maritime Law and by operation of treaty, plaintiffs, as seamen, are entitled to recover maintenance and cure from Defendants, until they are declared to have reached maximum possible cure,” the complaint states.
It adds: “Defendants willfully and callously delayed, failed and refused to pay plaintiffs’ entire maintenance and cure so that plaintiffs have become obligated to pay the undersigned a reasonable attorney’s fee. In addition, defendants were late in paying maintenance and cure when they did pay it.”
The plaintiffs are represented by K. Wynne Bohonnon of New Haven and by Michael Winkelman, with Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman of Miami.