Pirates release Saudi tanker

“The tanker, with a dead weight of 5,136 tons, and its
crew — one Greek and 13 Sri Lankans — were all safe,” Paddy O’Kennedy, a
spokesman of the European Union Naval Force, said by telephone on Thursday.
Arab News contacted some officials of the Jeddah-based
International Bunkering Company (IBCO), which owns the tanker, but they
declined to comment. IBCO has been working with their insurer, Saudi IACI
Cooperative Insurance Company (SALAMA), to secure an early release of the
bunker barge.
Asked about the condition of the 13 Sri Lankan crew members,
W.A. Sarath Kumara, minister in the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh, said they are
safe but that he had no information about the status of the tanker. He said the
Sri Lankans will most likely reach Jeddah within a fortnight.
The tanker, which was hijacked while sailing from Japan to
Jeddah on March 3, was freed after a ransom was paid, said Andrew Mwangura of
the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program.
“The amount of ransom paid to Somali pirates for
securing the release was not known immediately,” said Mwangura.
Some of the reports published earlier indicated that the
pirates were demanding and negotiating a $20-million ransom to release the
Maritime industry sources said that the amount of ransom
cannot be so high or to the tune of $20 million, pointing out that the Al-Nisr
Al-Saudi is considerably smaller than the Saudi-owned leviathan Sirus Star,
which was released in January 2009 after the payment of a $8-million ransom.
Somali pirates make tens of millions of dollars in ransom
from seizing ships, including tankers, in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of
Aden, despite the efforts of foreign navies to clamp down on such attacks.
Saudi Arabia had pledged to fight piracy. Riyadh has also signed a major
maritime code of conduct that calls for revision of national legislation to
criminalize piracy and armed robbery against ships.
Ecoterra International, an environmental NGO monitoring
maritime activity in the region, said Somali pirates are holding 35 foreign
vessels and at least 649 hostages.
One act of piracy out of every two worldwide is carried out
off the coasts of Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden, according to the
International maritime Bureau.

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