Somali pirates free Greek-owned chemical tanker: official

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 22 2008 02:58 AM | Updated as of Nov 22 2008 10:59 AM

NAIROBI - Somali pirates on Friday released a Greek-owned chemical tanker and its crew they hijacked in September, a Kenyan maritime official told Agence France-Presse.

"The pirates released the ship today and it is now sailing to freedom," said Andrew Mwangura, the head of the East African Seafarers Association.

The Liberia-flagged MV Genius was seized in the treacherous Gulf of Aden waters on September 25 with 19 Romanian crew members while on its way to the Middle East from Europe.

Mwangura said it was unclear whether ransom was paid, but pirates often free freighters after a huge payout.

The Genius was hijacked on the same day as MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship that was carrying a cargo of tanks and other weaponry, and is still under pirates control.

Over the weekend, Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi Arabian super-tanker Sirius Star that was carrying 100-million-dollar worth of oil and are now demanding 25 million dollars in ransom.

This high-profile hijacking has outraged the maritime industry and international community who have jointly called for firm action to eradicate sea banditry.

Pirates are well organized in the area where Somalia's northeastern tip juts into the Indian Ocean, preying on a key maritime route leading to the Suez Canal through which an estimated 30 percent of the world's oil transits.

They operate high-powered speedboats and are heavily armed, sometimes holding ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.

Several foreign warships and aircrafts have been deployed in the region to protect commercial shipping.

This year there have been 95 attempted ship seizures by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, 39 of them successful, according to maritime organizations.