, BRUSSELS, Feb 28 – Somali pirates released Sunday a Greek-owned freighter and its crew of 19, captured two months ago, after receiving a ransom payment, the EU\’s naval force announced.
"EU NAVFOR can now confirm that the Greek owned Panama flagged Bulk Carrier the Navios Apollon that was hijacked on the 28 of December has been released this morning of 28 February," the mission\’s headquarters said in a statement.
The release of the 52,000-tonne ship, its Greek captain and 18 Filipino crew members came the day after an unspecified ransom was paid to the pirates.
It was the second such ransom drop and release in days, with governments and companies in a dilemma over the need to recover their ships and crews amid fears that ransoms encourage further piracy.
The freed Greek ship, which had been hijacked in the Indian Ocean while en route to Thailand, was on its way to Oman, NAVFOR said.
Britain warned early this month that such payments could encourage more kidnaps, but denied blocking an independent negotiator from trying to agree a ransom for a British couple held hostage in Somalia since October 23.
Somali pirates, targeting one of the world\’s busiest maritime trade routes, raked in an estimated 60 million dollars in ransoms last year.
After the latest releases, they still hold four vessels and 99 seafarers, according to NAVFOR spokesman Commander John Harbour.
The EU NAVFOR Atalanta mission is tasked with escorting merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid and to protect vulnerable ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.