PENANG: The three tugboat crewmen kidnapped by pirates in the Straits of Malacca last week have been released without any ransom paid.
Thai marine police found them in a drifting fishing boat, about 20 nautical miles north of Pulau Adang near Pulau Langkawi at 5.30pm on Sunday.
Captain Nododuo Indue, 54, and chief engineer Shunji Kuroda, 51, both Japanese, and third engineer Sadang Paliawan, 41, a Filipino, of the tugboat Idaten were unhurt but looked exhausted when they arrived at Hotel Equatorial here at 7pm yesterday.
Capt Indue said they were set adrift in the sea on Friday morning.
“We were treated relatively well after our abduction on March 14. We don't know where we were on shore but they made us change boats a total of seven times to avoid being detected by maritime authorities.
“Five pirates armed with machineguns accompanied us and we moved camp daily. Paliawan understood what they said and acted as our translator.
“We were made to walk barefooted through the jungles. Our daily meals were made up of rice and fish,” he told a press conference here.
Kuroda said their captors acted and looked more like soldiers than pirates, adding that all he wanted to do now was to return to Japan to be with his family.
State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Christopher Wan said the men were released without any demand for ransom.
“Patrols along the Straits of Malacca, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, will be beefed up to prevent such incidents,” he said.
The three crewmen were earlier brought into Malaysia from Thailand through the Bukit Kayu Hitam border checkpoint at 4.30pm.
Several Japanese officials accompanied them.
The tugboat was towing a barge, Kurushio 1, when pirates in three fishing boats who were armed with machineguns and rocket launchers, boarded it and kidnapped the three crewmen.
The attack happened 45.5 nautical miles west off Tanjung Hantu, Lumut. The marine police base in Gelugor was informed about the attack after the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) received a distress call at 7.35pm that night.