$3 Million Tanker Ransom Delivered to Pirates by Parachute
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Posted 10 January 2009 - 04:00 PM
MOGADISHU, Somalia — A Saudi-owned supertanker held by pirates off the coast of Somalia for two months has been released for a ransom of $3 million, according to one of the pirates and residents of Xarardheere, a pirate town on the Somali coast near where the tanker was being held.
The tanker, about the length of an American Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, is the largest ship known to have been seized by pirates, and it was fully loaded with two million barrels of oil.
The pirates were due to leave the ship after they received the money, paid by the ship’s owners, on Friday, according to the pirates and residents, who later said the ship had moved away from the coast where it had been anchored since November.
News agencies had reported that the pirates originally asked for $25 million for the oil tanker, the Sirius Star, but a pirate in Xarardheere who gave his name as Jama said, “They have agreed on $3 million.” He said he had spoken to pirates who had gone to the ship for the payment.
The International Maritime Bureau in London, a clearinghouse for piracy information and maritime safety issues, said it could not yet confirm that the pirates had freed the tanker.
“The information that we have from the owner is that the vessel is not yet released,” said Cyrus Mody, a spokesman for the organization. The owner, Vela International Ltd., could not be immediately reached for comment.
But a maritime group based in Kenya confirmed the release. Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance program was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The last batch of gunmen have disembarked from the Sirius Star. She is now steaming out to safe waters.”
The Sirius Star was seized in November off the coast of Somalia, in seas where pirates have struck with increasing audacity in recent months, hijacking vessels including a Ukrainian freighter laden with armaments that is still being held.
China said last month that it would send naval ships to the Gulf of Aden. And on Thursday, the United States Navy said a new international force under American command would begin patrols to confront pirates off the Horn of Africa.
As for the supertanker, Abdi Ahmed of Xarardheere said, “The big fishes left Xarardheere on Thursday afternoon to the Sirius Star ship to get the ransom money and to set free the ship.”
The pirate named Jama said he was waiting for his share of the ransom. “When the pirates receive the money, they will divide in shares on the spot, so that they will disembark tonight from the ship with everyone’s share in pocket,” he said.