Somali pirates release British-flagged chemical tanker

12:52, May 14, 2010      

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File photo of the released British chemical tanker St James Park. Somali pirates have released a British chemical tanker which was hijacked in December last year with 26 crew aboard, the European Union naval force said on Friday.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Somali pirates have released a British chemical tanker which was hijacked in December last year with 26 crew aboard, the European Union naval force said on Friday.

Naval Force spokesman John Harbour said St James Park and its 26 crew released on Thursday were sailing to Thailand from Spain with a chemical used to make plastics when it was seized by the pirates in the Gulf of Aden on December 28, 2009. "On the morning of May 13 a ransom drop was made to the pirate group holding the St James Park at anchorage at Garacaad," Harbour said.

He said St James Park is a British Flagged chemical tanker with deadweight of 13,924 tonnes, and has three Filipinos, three Russians, one Georgians, two Romanians, five Bulgarians, two Ukrainians, one Polish, six Indians and three Turkish. "She is now safely underway and EU NAVFOR is continuing to monitor the situation," Harbour said.

The Somali-based gangs have made tens of millions of dollars from hijacking vessels and holding them until a ransom is paid, despite patrols by foreign navies.

International navies have been deployed in the Gulf of Aden following a series of attacks on foreign vessels in one of the world's most important trade routes.

Their presence has forced pirates to travel further from their home bases into the Indian Ocean, where many of the recent attacks have taken place.

Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal.

Somalia has been mired in anarchy since 1991. The chaos onshore has allowed piracy to flourish in the busy shipping lanes linking Europe to Asia and pushed up insurance premiums.

To date more than 100 suspects have been transferred to Kenya by the Western warships patrolling the Indian Ocean to combat piracy.

It is only Kenya and the Seychelles in the region that have agreed to take in suspects for prosecution, but both have recently complained about the burden of trying and jailing pirates in their countries.



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