Somali Pirates Free Danish Ship

16:30, 16 January 2009
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After Ransom Paid...

Somali pirates released a Danish ship, which had been held captive for more than two months in the Gulf of Aden, after the operator paid ransom in a container dropped by parachute from an airplane, according to Bloomberg.

The last nine of some 30 pirates abandoned the CEC Future today, leaving the 13 crew members of the dry-cargo vessel unharmed, Per Gullestrup, an executive with Copenhagen-based shipper Clipper Group A/S, said today in a telephone interview.

“It took the pirates more than a day to count the money and divide it between them before they all left,” Gullestrup said. “The current rate is between $1 million and $2 million per vessel.” He declined to disclose the exact amount paid, saying that would make it more difficult for other shippers currently negotiating with pirates.

Last week, the Saudi Arabian oil supertanker Sirius Star, the largest ship captured by Somali pirates, was freed after ransom was paid, according to the U.S. Navy. Press photographs showed a container being dropped by parachute onto the vessel. The Saudi owner declined to say whether the pirates were paid.

Pirates attacked 165 ships off the Somali coast last year, up from 58 attacks in 2007, according to the French military. The Gulf of Aden, where most of the attacks take place, is used by 50 ships a day on their way to or from the Suez Canal.

Carrying Steel

The Danish ship, which was sailing under the Bahamas flag, was captured Nov. 7 en route to Indonesia with 6,000 tonnes (6,600 short tons) of steel. It is now heading for Oman, where the crew, which includes 11 Russians, one Estonian and one Georgian, will be replaced before it continues to its final destination, Gullestrup said.

Clipper, which operates some 250 vessels, now will send ships into the Gulf of Aden only under naval escort, he said.

The European Union and individual countries have sent warships to the region, a transit area for one-tenth of the world’s trade, over concern attacks may limit trade and harm economies already facing recession. Attacks have declined since a November peak, according to the French military. The United Nations Security Council last month allowed naval forces in the area to “take all necessary measures” to fight pirates.

The EU naval mission, which began in December, is the bloc’s first. Denmark deployed a warship, the Absalon, in September as part of a U.S. task force in the region. Other countries with warships on anti-piracy duty in the area include China, India, Malaysia and Russia.

Somali pirates have also released a Turkish-owned tanker and a Korean-owned vessel for ransom in the past week.

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