21 November 2008 22:03 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Somali pirates on Friday released a Greek-owned chemical tanker that was hijacked at the end of September, a Kenyan maritime official told a French news agency.
"The pirates released the ship today, and it is now sailing to freedom," said Andrew Mwangura, the head of the East African Seafarers Association, in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Liberia-flagged MV Genius was seized in the Gulf of Aden near the Horn of Africa on 25 September while on its way to the Middle East from Europe.
Mwangura said it was unclear whether a ransom was paid. Pirates often free freighters after a huge payout.
The Genius was hijacked on the same day as the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying a cargo of tanks and other weaponry that is still under pirate control.
Pirates have become the rulers of the sea where Somalia's northeastern tip juts into the Indian Ocean, preying on a key maritime route leading to the Suez Canal.
Several foreign warships have been deployed there to protect commercial shipping, but the pirates have only become more brazen as the escorts arrive.
Last week they seized an oil tanker, the MV Sirius Star, with a cargo of crude said to be worth more than $100m (€80m). The pirates this week demanded a ransom of $25m for the tanker.
Kenya's foreign minister on Friday said that more than $150m has been paid to pirates operating around the Horn of Africa over the past 12 months.
The ransoms encourage them to continue and become more brazen in their attacks, Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula told a news conference in the Kenyan capital.
"That is why they are becoming more and more audacious in their activities," Wetangula said, quoted by CNN.
They currently hold 17 vessels and are estimated to have attacked more than 90 ships in the region so far this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center, which monitors piracy around the world.
($1 = €0.80)
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