Faina crew in good health, cargo intact – pirate

14:35, 12 January 2009
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 The statement came two days...

The crew of the Ukrainian ship Faina, seized by Somalia pirates back in September, is in good health and the cargo on board is intact, reports on Monday quoted a spokesman for pirates as saying, according to Itar-Tass.

He said as soon as negotiations with the owners of the ship end in a mutual agreement, the Faina with all cargo and the crew will be immediately released. According to the pirate, the terms remain the same – the pirates want to get a ransom of 20 million dollars. However, the sum can be lowered in case the negotiations succeed, he stressed.

American naval ships sailing in the area where the ship is held, keep watching the ship. There is a danger that in case the negotiations fail, pirates could try to convey the armaments on board to Islamic gunmen, who are engaged in an armed fight against the Somali government.

The statement came two days after the release of the Saudi tanker Sirius Star. The ship with the crew was set free after pirates had got a ransom of about three million dollars. However, not all pirates were lucky to get their share of money. After they left the tanker, their boat capsized in a stormy weather and five pirates drowned. The body of one of them was washed ashore at the Somalia city Xarardheere. A plastic bag with 153,000 dollars was found on him.

In connection with the accident, pirates said they would seek a safer way to get the ransom. Ransom money for Faina was dropped in a container.

The Faina was seized by Somalia pirates on September 25 some 225 miles east of the Somalia coast. The ship, carrying 33 Ukrainian T-72 tanks and other military equipment reportedly intended for Kenya and flying the Belize flag was en route from Oktyabrsk in the Ukrainian Nikolayev region to the Kenyan Mombassa.

The vessel was moving by a recommended route, rather far from the Somalia coast. Initially, the ship’s crew was made up of three Russians, 17 Ukrainians and one Latvian. One Russian citizen, captain Vladimir Kolobkov, died of a heart attack.

The Faina is one of about 30 trade vessels seized by pirates off Somalia this year. The MV Faina is a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship operated by a Ukrainian company that sails under a Belize flag of convenience. The Faina is owned by Waterlux AG, based in Panama City, and managed by Tomex Team in Odessa, Ukraine. On 25 September 2008, the ship was captured by Somalia pirates in the twenty-sixth such attack in 2008. The Faina was hijacked by approximately 50 Somalia pirates calling themselves the Central Regional Coast Guard.

Piracy in the busy Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean shipping lanes has raised insurance premiums, prompted some owners to go round South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal and brought an unprecedented deployment of warships to the region. According Reuters, the US Navy said on Thursday it would launch a force to combat Somalia piracy, an offshoot of an earlier mission. Chinese warships also began anti-piracy patrols off Somalia.

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