Wed, Dec 30, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Somali pirates hijack a tanker, release another

REUTERS , MOGADISHU

Somali pirates hijacked a UK-flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on the same day they released a Singapore-flagged container, pirates and maritime officials said on Tuesday.

Pirates told reporters they had received a ransom for the Singaporean vessel Kota Wajar and freed the ship with its crew on Monday. The release was confirmed by the EU naval force (EU Navfor) patrolling waters off Somalia.

“We have received US$4 million and released the ship and its 21 crew late yesterday,” pirate Mohamed told reporters. “The crew were happy and clapping when our friends got down from the ship.”

The 24,637 tonne Kota Wajar was seized on Oct. 15 north of the Seychelles archipelago as it was sailing to the Kenyan port of Mombasa from Singapore. EU Navfor said the Canadian warship HMCS Fredericton was now providing medical and logistical help.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East Africa Seafarers’ Association said yesterday that pirates had seized the UK-flagged chemical tanker St James Park a day earlier and the ship had changed course for the Somali coast.

Somali pirates told reporters late on Monday they had hijacked another vessel, but did not give details.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since 1991. The chaos onshore has allowed piracy to flourish in the busy shipping lanes linking Europe to Asia and pushed up insurance premiums.

The Somali-based gangs have made tens of millions of dollars from hijacking vessels and holding them until a ransom is paid, despite patrols by foreign navies.

The patrols have reduced the number of hijackings in the Gulf of Aden this year and pirates have instead seized vessels far into the Indian Ocean to maintain the lucrative business.

Mwangura said the St James Park and its 26 crew were sailing to Thailand from Spain with a chemical used to make plastics when it sent a distress signal from the Gulf of Aden.

Ecoterra International, a group that monitors shipping, says at least 10 foreign vessels and 228 seafarers are being held.

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