Somali pirates free tanker after 10 months

AP News
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Posted: Aug 26, 2011 12:22 PM
Somali pirates free tanker after 10 months

Somali pirates released a cargo ship and its crew on Friday that had been held hostage for nearly 10 months, and the vessel's Greek managers declined to say whether a ransom had been paid.

But the managers complained that the international community lacks the political will to effectively combat widespread piracy off the east African country. One seaman aboard the Panama-flagged MT Polar oil tanker died of a stroke three weeks after the ship was seized in the Indian Ocean on Oct. 30, 2010.

Paradise Navigation SA, which is based in Athens, said the vessel is now on its way to a safe port, and that the other 23 crew members are well.

"This was a long and extremely distressing hijack for all the families involved and those in the company trying to secure their release," Paradise Navigation said in a statement.

The statement avoided saying whether a ransom had been paid, arguing that the company did not want to encourage "further unacceptable criminal acts of this kind," or endanger other crews still being held by pirates. But such hijackings often end with million-dollar ransoms being paid.

"Owners and managers find it unacceptable that they were virtually left unaided to deal with these criminal acts on the high seas," the company said. "It is a sad indictment of the international initiatives currently in place that they have proved ineffective in stopping piracy."

Paradise Navigation said the amount of money that shipping companies are paying Somali pirates to release their hijacked vessels and hostages is rising rapidly each year, and that countries must do more to stop such attacks.

International anti-piracy operations are under way off Somalia, but ransoms are considered a fortune by pirates based in war-ravaged, drought-stricken Somalia. And recently the pirates have expanded their range to target ships along the coast of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula.

(This version CORRECTS Adds detail, background. Corrects ship's flag to Panamanian.)