Pirates free Asian ship after five months

April 21, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 21 – Somali pirates have released the chemical tanker MT Stolt Strength and its crew of 23 Filipinos after holding them for five months, a Kenya-based maritime watchdog said Tuesday.

Andrew Mwangura, who heads the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, said all crew members were safe and added that the ship was headed to the Indian port of Kandla but may call at an African port on the way.

"We don’t have all the details but it was released early this morning," he said. "We think that something was paid but we don’t know what the amount of the ransom was."

The tanker, which has owners in Japan and the Philippines, was seized in the Indian Ocean on November 10 and had most recently been held not far off the pirate lair of Harardhere.

Little had filtered on ongoing negotiations for its release in recent days, prompting the families of the crew to launch fresh pleas for help from the Filipino authorities.

The MT Stolt Strength’s case was one of the longest-running hijackings by the ransom-hunting pirates plying the busy maritime trade routes of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

A Nigerian tugboat, the T/B Yenegoa Ocean, and its 11 crewmen have been held for eight and half months.

The Asian chemical vessel’s release means that Somali pirates still hold at least 18 ships and close to 300 seamen to ransom.


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