Police arrest 10 in sea hostage drama

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Table Bay - A hostage drama outside the Table Bay harbour on Tuesday morning led to the arrest of 10 crew members who were holding a Taiwanese fishing vessel captain and his officer hostage.

The rescue drama started on Monday afternoon when the South African Police Service was alerted to a conflict on board the fishing vessel "Balena" after ten of the 29 crew members took the captain and an officer hostage and commanded the vessel.

National police spokesperson, Director Sally de Beer, said according to information received, the hostage takers demanded that the vessel enter Table Bay harbour.

"Details behind the whole ordeal are still sketchy," Ms de Beer said, adding that the 10 crew members, all Vietnamese, felt "they were not being treated fairly".

"They had a grievance and apparently felt they would take this up by redirecting the captain back home," Ms de Beer said.

She said a task team consisting of the SAPS Special Task Force, Western Cape Legal Services, Organised Crime Unit, Dog Unit, Port of Entry unit and hostage negotiators, as well as the National Ports Authorities and the Department of Home Affairs, was assembled and the vessel - which at the time was in international waters - was authorised to enter South African waters.

Police finally managed to board the hijacked vessel, freed the hostages and took the crew into custody.

A Special Task Force team was dispatched from Pretoria to deal with the hostage situation. The group was being held in custody facing charges relating to kidnapping and possibly piracy.

"The other 19 crew members on board played no part in the hijacking of the vessel and have not been detained," Ms de Beer said.

She said the captain of the vessel was unharmed while the officer sustained injuries during an assault stemming from the hijacking and was treated by paramedics.

Acting National Commissioner Tim Williams commended all police units involved, for their professionalism.

"This proves that the SAPS has the capacity and skills to deal with any security-related situation effectively," he said.