Somalia pirates release Panama-flagged bitumen cargo ship

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 15, 2011 1:29 PM
Somalia pirates release Panama-flagged bitumen cargo ship

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali pirates have released a Panamanian-flagged bitumen carrier ship after receiving a ransom, but detained some of its crew, pirates and a maritime official said on Friday.

The 3,884-deadweight metric ton MT Asphalt Venture was seized on September 29 last year as it was heading to South Africa's port city of Durban from Mombasa in Kenya and had 15 crew members, all Indian nationals.

The pirates said they had freed the tanker after receiving $3.6 million, but this could not be independently verified.

"We have received $3.6 million early this morning for the release of the tanker," said a pirate calling himself Ahmed.

"The ship has just sailed away but we have taken some of its Indian crew back because the Indian government is currently holding our men. We need the Indian government to free our men so that we can release their citizens."

The ship was managed by Mumbai-based Omci Ship management Pvt and owned by Bitumen Invest AS of United Arab Emirates.

Andrew Mwangura, maritime editor of the Somalia Report, said the ship had been released but had stalled due to a technical hitch after its departure.

"The ship left, but stalled. Pirates are no longer holding the ship," said Mwangura, based in the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

Pirate gangs are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, and despite successful efforts to quell attacks in the Gulf of Aden, international navies have struggled to contain piracy in the Indian Ocean owing to the vast distances involved.

(Reporting by Mohamed Ahmed; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)