Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Somali pirates release cargo ship after ransom

AFP , COPENHAGEN

Pirates have released a Danish cargo ship and its 13 crew members held off the Somali coast since early November after a ransom was paid, the operator of the ship said yesterday.

“The last pirates left the ship early Thursday morning. We had reached an agreement with the criminals late Monday,” the head of Clipper Projects, Per Gullestrup, said.

The ransom was dropped by parachute to the pirates on Wednesday, and after counting the cash the pirates departed from the ship in a speedboat on Thursday.

Gullestrup did not disclose the amount of the ransom paid, but said the going rate to pirates in the Gulf of Aden was currently around US$1 million to US$2 million.

“We can’t disclose [the amount]. There are other ships still being held down there and that could hamper their negotiations,” he said.

The CEC Future ship, which is operated by Danish company Clipper Group, was hijacked on Nov. 7 in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia.

The vessel was heading from the Middle East to Asia and flying the national flag of the Bahamas.

The crew members included 11 Russians, a Georgian and an Estonian, Gullestrup said.

The Russian navy was now escorting the ship to Oman, where the crew would be relieved and undergo health checks before returning home.

Gullestrup said that paying ransoms to pirates was a difficult dilemma.

“Yes it definitely encourages them. But as long as you’re not properly protected, this is a curse we have to live with,” he said.

There had however been a “marked improvement” in the Gulf of Aden recently, he said, although “the situation is still not under control.”

A surge of piracy since last August has drawn naval vessels from 14 countries to the Gulf of Aden to protect shipping, but attacks on ships and hostage takings have continued.

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