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Somali pirates release Greek ship
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08:50, December 10, 2008

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A regional maritime body confirmed on Tuesday the release of a Greek ship, the MV Capt. Stephanos, which was hijacked in September by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden with 19 crew members.

A statement from the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP) said the vessel, which was freed late on Monday, has a Ukrainian citizen, one Chinese and 17 Filipino seafarers, who were captured by Somali pirates Sept. 21.

"The Greek ship-owner's company Chartworld Shipping Corporation(Athens) finally confirmed that the Greek ship MV Capt. Stephanos, with a Ukrainian citizen as a crew member, one Chine and 17 Filipino seafarers, captured by Somali pirates September 21, was set free following 11 weeks of captivity," the statement said.

"The crew members' state of health is estimated as satisfactory, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry informed. According to the ship-owner's information, presently the released ship is heading for Brindisi port (Italy)," it said.

Maritime officials said a surge in piracy attacks at sea this year in the busy pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden and Somali coast has pushed up insurance costs, brought the gangs tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, and prompted foreign warships to rush to the area.

"With the latest captures and releases still at least 15 foreign vessels with a total of around 335 crew members (of which 91 are Filipinos) are held and are monitored on our actual case-list," the statement said.

According to the group, over 123 incidences (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) have been recorded so far for 2008 with until Tuesday 51 factual sea-jacking cases (including the presently held 15).

Among the captured vessels which are still being held by the Somali pirates are a Saudi supertanker loaded with 100 million U.S. dollars of crude oil, the Sirius Star, and a Ukrainian cargo ship carrying some 33 Soviet-era tanks, the MV Faina.

The MV Faina is currently moored off Somalia's coast close to the town of Hobyo with 20 crew members after one was killed during the attack.

The United States, Russia, India, NATO and the European Union have all sent warships to Somalia's waters, but the piracy problem still rages.


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