A maritime industry group posted videos Tuesday on YouTube showing two Danes and four Filipinos held hostage by Somali pirates pleading for the Danish government and the ship's owner to help win their freedom.
Pirates seek millions of dollars to release the ships and crews they hijack off the coast of East Africa. The pirates have made such hostage videos before, but rarely, if ever, havee the videos been posted on YouTube.
One of the Danish crew members, Soeren Lyngbjoern, is seen asking for the government and company to help free the crew members, who were captured Jan. 12. A pirate holding the camera asks questions while three masked men holding weapons stand in the background.
Lyngbjoern said the crew members are often afraid, and that he is suffering from health problems. An imprint on the video indicates it was shot last Thursday, though The Associated Press could not independently authenticate the tape or when it was shot.
"I don't think I live for much more," he said in a shaky voice that sometimes cracks with emotion.
Pirates hijacked the Danish cargo ship MV Leopard in the Arabian Sea between Yemen and Somalia. Its crew consists of four Filipinos and two Danes and is operated by the shipping company Shipcraft. Six men are seen in the video, which was shot outdoors near brush.
A second hostage seen in the videos says the Leopard was carrying military equipment.
Shipcraft said in a statement Tuesday that speculation in the Danish press that the company has not been working toward the release of the hostages is not true.
"Shipcraft has since January _ and with the advice from renowned security advisers and in close consultation with all relevant parties, among others the appropriate authorities _ been negotiating for the fastest possible release of our crew," the company said, adding that it could not share details because it could have a negative impact on the dealings.
Shipcraft said that the crew is "under unbelievable pressure, mentally as well as physically."
The group that posted the videos, Save our Seafarers, describes itself on its website as one of the biggest maritime industry groups with 25 maritime organizations as members.
Bill Box, the campaign manager, said the group was sent a link to the footage and reposted the video to YouTube to raise awareness of the human and economic cost of piracy.
Box said some photos the group previously posted are meant to convey the "psychological and physical terror facing hostages."
"The footage is harrowing but brings into the sharp focus the terrible situation facing seafarer hostages in Somalia," he said, adding that it also prompts people to visit the website and join the campaign for international action to combat piracy.
Pirates have been holding hostages longer in apparent hopes of winning higher ransoms. The average ransom is now around $5 million.
A spokesman for the EU Naval Force, an anti-piracy force, said the group's records show that pirates hold 19 ships and 417 hostages.
In other piracy developments, officials responsible for a small Emirati oil tanker that was hijacked Saturday said they have lost contact with the ship but are hopeful it will be released soon.
Omar al-Khair, general manager of Emirates International Shipping, the vessel's manager, told The Associated Press there were 17 crew members on board the United Arab Emirates-flagged MV Jubba XX. Besides the Sri Lankan captain, he said crew members were from India, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Sudan, Bangladesh and Somalia.
"I'm expecting it to get released easy ... because there are Somalis" on board, he said. There have been no demands for ransom yet, he said.
The tanker was carrying between 3,500 to 4,000 tons of refined fuel when it was hijacked, said Ali Alawi, operations coordinator at Jubba General Trading Co., the ship's Emirati owner. It was headed from the Emirati city of Umm al-Quwain to the Somali port of Berbera.
Al-Khair said the companies last had contact with a crew member by satellite phone shortly after the hijacking Saturday off the coast of Mukalla, Yemen. They have been unable to reach them since then.
Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed reporting.
On the Internet:
YouTube video: http://tinyurl.com/3f3j854
Save our Seafarers: http://www.saveourseafarers.com