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Released Georgian sailors returning home

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, January 11
Captain of OLIB.G - a Malta-flagged cargo ship captured by Somali pirates on September 8, 2010, spoke of the hard conditions the 18 sailors endured during the 508 days of their captivity. Having overcome the “hellish conditions” in hunger and thirst Mamed Zakaradze said the Georgian sailors hadn’t lost hope in the Georgian Government and the Georgian people. “I want to thank each and every Georgian who made even the tiniest contribution to our release,” he said on behalf of the entire crew. Family members of the Georgian sailors couldn’t hide their happiness at the news that their men would finally be returning home.

Zakaradze who was among the captured sailors, said that the 15 Georgians and 3 Turks now feel safe onboard a Georgian controlled ship en route to one of Africa’s ports in Kenya after their release a couple of days ago. After they undergo medical examinations and legal procedures at the port all the Georgian sailors will be flying to their motherland after 16 months of separation from their families.

Having been in a state of total despair since April 2011 their family members feared that they would never see the sailors again. But as Nazi Mikeladze, Zakaradze’s wife, said on Tuesday, they were informed by officials that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was personally following the case, thus they had hope that the President could help. “The President has really confirmed his power and authority as the captured sailors have finally been released as a result of his involvement in their case,” added Asmat Makaradze, the wife of another Georgian sailor.

A group of Georgian officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Protection and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs led by the Deputy Economic Minister Giorgi Karbelashvili was sent to Somalia a few days ago to facilitate the release of the sailors. The Georgian delegation is waiting in Kenya for the arrival of the secured vessel bringing the released sailors, while Airzena Georgian Airlines will ensure the safe delivery of the sailors to Batumi, in Adjara.

Expressing his gratitude to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development for their several months of active negotiations with the pirates, Saakashvili said that the Government didn’t stop thinking of how to safely release the Georgians from captivity with the Somali pirates. Explaining that information about the negotiations was kept confidential for the safety of the sailors, the Georgian President welcomed the fact that the Georgian officials managed to overcome several obstacles in the procedures and finally succeeded.

“We didn’t ever reveal sensitive details of the situation. Despite public criticism we couldn’t say one word about our activities so as not to jeopardise the entire process,” Saakashvili said, praising the officials for their good work. The President praised Deputy Minister Karbelashvili in particular for his work in trying many different avenues to get the sailors out and the final successful resolution of the situation. Talking of Georgia as an exemplary state Saakashvili said that they have no ambition other than to protect the interests of Georgia’s citizens. He also highlighted that Georgia has no people to lose thus the Government will fight for the life of every single Georgian.