MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali pirates have released the Greek-owned bulk carrier Free Goddess and its 21 Filipino crew members after holding the vessel for more than eight months, the secretary general of the Seafarers Union of Kenya said on Friday.
Andrew Mwangura, whose role involves contact with ships sailing the Indian Ocean and catering for crews' welfare, said a ransom was dropped onto the vessel from the air on October 10.
"The Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier Free Goddess is now free and she is heading to Salalah, Oman, for ... fuel, fresh water and a crew change," Mwangura told Reuters.
Pirates said the ship had been held at Garad, a haven in Puntland that they use.
"We took $5.7 million ransom after holding the ship for months," a pirate in Garad called Mohamed told Reuters.
The amount of the ransom could not immediately be verified independently.
Mwangura is a former head of The East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, an independent organization for the welfare of seafarers and a piracy monitoring group.
International navies have cracked down on pirates, including strikes on their coastal bases, and ship firms are increasingly using armed guards and defensive measures on vessels including barbed wire, scaring off Somali seaborne gangs.
That reduced the number of incidents involving Somali pirates to 69 in the first half of 2012, compared with 163 in the same period last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
However, the commander of the European Union's anti-piracy task force has warned that pirates would "try their luck" again following a lull in attacks on the high seas off Somalia now that the monsoon period has ended.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Mohamed Ahmed in Mogadishu and Abdqani Hassan in Puntland and Richard Lough in Nairobi; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by James Macharia)