A Taiwanese boat captain who was held captive by Somalian pirates for 18 months returned home late on Tuesday to a warm welcome from his wife, Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel and executives of the company that owned his boat.
“Being back home is like a big weight lifted from the heart,” said Wu Chao-yi (吳朝義), captain of the Shiuh Fu No. 1, a tuna long liner that was hijacked in late 2010. Embracing her husband, Wu’s wife appeared too thrilled to speak.
Wu, from Greater Kaohsiung, said he had not been home in five years.
The fishing vessel was besieged by pirates on Dec. 25, 2010, off the coast of Madagascar and led to Somalia. Wu and the crew — 13 Chinese and 12 Vietnamese — were released on July 17 and taken to Tanzania by a Chinese naval vessel after the fishing boat’s owners negotiated a ransom with the pirates.
“It was like hell,” Wu said of his ordeal. “Almost every day, the 26 of us were fed only two onions and a total of 26 potatoes.”
Wu said he lost 10kg in the 18 months he was held captive.
Speaking about the attack, he said about 20 armed pirates approached on an oil tanker’s speedboat. The pirates boarded the boat, took everything of value, hijacked the boat and then used it to attack other vessels, he said.
He said one time the pirates used his ship to launched an attack on a Denmark-registered freighter.
The Shuih Fu No. 1 later ran aground off the coast of Hobyo, Somalia, he said.
Chang Wen-chun (張文俊), the boat’s owner, continued to pay the crew’s salaries during their captivity, while Kaohsiung City Marine Bureau paid Wu’s family a compensatory sum of NT$4,000 per month.
Chang yesterday said he does not regret spending his cash to save the lives of the Shuih Fu No. 1 crew. However, his company is now on the verge of bankruptcy, with debts piling up, he said.
“I’m in too much pain to say much,” Chang added.
The boat, valued at NT$100 million, is insured, but the insurers have not been willing to pay to tow the grounded vessel back to Taiwan, he said, calling on the fisheries authorities to help.
In response, Fisheries Agency official James Sha (沙志一) said the agency would do its best to help the company once it applies formally for assistance.