Russian captain of Thai vessel wounded by pirates - reports

The Russian captain of a fishing vessel, Thai Union 3, hijacked by Somali pirates on 29th October this year, has been taken to hospital with bullet-wound, according to news agencies Reuters and Itar-Tass.

He is in a stable condition with no threat to his life, Itar-Tass reports, citing an unnamed source close to the negotiation process.

The captain was reportedly injured during the attack on the vessel. He had his own gun and tried to resist the pirates.

Reuters quotes one of the pirates as saying: "Our friends injured the Thai ship captain who tried to attack our colleague with a pistol. We brought him to Haradheere hospital where he is being treated. As usual, we never harm anyone who does not harm us."

The editor of the Maritime Bulletin website, Mikhail Voitenko, said that this incident explains why, during the attempts to connect with the hostages, a chief mate was answering instead of the captain. The chief mate said on the 2nd November that all the crewmembers were feeling fine and that there were no injured or ill on board.

Voitenko also says the representatives of the ship’s owner, who held talks with pirates by the phone, are to reduce contacts with the mass media. Voitenko claims this decision to be irrational, as he thinks the information will anyway leak from the vessel, but it can be inaccurate.

Voitenko adds the negotiations may prove complicated due to the pirates’ negative attitude towards fishermen.

“The Somali pirates have a particular attitude towards fishermen because they believe that fishermen are involved in poaching and stealing fish belonging to Somalia, although if we talk about Somalia itself, even its territorial waters still remain undefined – but nonetheless they have this kind of attitude towards fishermen which can complicate the negotiations,” he said.

Meanwhile, the pirates have agreed to reduce the sum of the ransom they are demanding for freeing the crew.

"Today it became known that the pirates have reduced the size of the ransom in comparison with what they demanded before. But the negotiators are refusing to announce the precise sum,” Vladimir Ogurtsov, Head of the Kaliningrad-based crewing agency Flot-Kadr, told Interfax news agency.

According to Ogurtsov, the ship owners are holding talks with the pirates on daily basis.

Thai Union 3, with 23 Russians on board, was seized off the Seychelles last month. The owner of the vessel is a Thai company. It's the largest number of Russians ever to have been taken captive at sea.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry is closely monitoring the situation around the captured ship and hopes for a happy ending.

“The situation is delicate so let’s hope it is resolved smoothly,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said. “The ministry is doing everything it can to possess any piece of information regarding how the freeing process is going.”

“The contact with the pirates has been established. The ship owner is in talks over the conditions of setting the crew free,” Nesterenko underlined.