Cargo ship, China crew rescued from pirates

May 6, 2011 12:00 am

, BEIJING, May 6 – A Panama-registered cargo ship seized by pirates in the Arabian Sea has been rescued along with the 24 Chinese sailors aboard, the transport ministry in Beijing said Friday.

US and Turkish teams freed the vessel, Full City, late Thursday, several hours after it had been hijacked about 800 kilometres (500 miles) off the Indian city of Mumbai, the ministry said, citing the China Sea Rescue Centre.

The statement did not say what kind of teams were involved or whether a ransom was paid. The sailors were all in good condition, it said.

Heavily armed pirates using speedboats operate in and around the Gulf of Aden where they prey on ships, sometimes holding vessels for weeks before releasing them for large ransoms paid by governments or ship owners.

The Chinese navy participates in an international anti-piracy force in the area.

In November, a Singapore-flagged cargo ship with 19 Chinese crew that had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia five months before was freed after sources said a ransom of several million dollars was paid.

Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau\’s piracy reporting centre, in Kuala Lumpur, said attacks off western India showed how far Somalia-based pirates had been able to extend their reach.

"It\’s been like this for some time. The pirates have been extending their coverage area," Choong told AFP.

"Our major concern is that they will continue to go farther. Once they reach this area, the next one will be off Sri Lanka, and then on to the Malacca Strait," he added.

The Malacca Strait is a vital international waterway with more than 30 percent of global trade and half the world\’s oil shipments passing through it annually.

Once the global hotspot for pirate attacks, security has improved substantially there in recent years thanks to coordinated patrols by nations bordering the waterway.


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