The Kerala mariners, whom the Nigerian Navy detained, returned home after nine months on Saturday. The sailors met their families at the Kochi airport after returning via Cape Town, South Africa, and thanked the Ministry of External Affairs for helping them.
According to news agency ANI, 16 Indian crew members on the ship "MT Heroic Idun" were taken into custody last year in Equatorial Guinea and then in Nigeria for allegedly crossing the international maritime boundary line.
The crude oil carrier had a crew of 26 people, including Milton D'Couth of Mulavukad, Sanu Jose of Elamkulam, and V. Vijith of Kollam.
There were 16 Indians, eight Sri Lankans, and one each from the Philippines and Poland.
“There was this huge excitement and sense of freedom on landing on home soil. Communication was the biggest problem during detention since our captors allowed us access to mobile phones only for a few minutes once in one or two months. They wanted us to communicate with none other than our families,” The Hindu quoted Milton D’Couth as saying.
The mariners recalled how, as their detention ended, their condition deteriorated due to a lack of food and water.
They said that the nature of water was an immense concern, leaving them powerless against sicknesses like typhoid. "We were locked up in a small room. To be dealt like criminals despite committing no crime was traumatic."
As per the report, the group was at first detained by Equatorial Guinea on charges of violating their territorial waters.
They were turned over to the Nigerian Navy after being held by Equatorial Guinea's naval force since August 12.