Somali pirates release two ships

19:51, July 20, 2010      

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Somali pirates have released a chemical tanker and Kenyan-flagged fishing vessel which were seized in early March this year, a regional maritime official confirmed on Tuesday.

Andrew Mwangura, the head of the East African Seafarers Assistance Program said the pirates released the Kenyan-flagged fishing boat, MV Sakoba with European and African crew and The Marshall Islands-flagged UBT Ocean late Monday. "We received the reports on Tuesday but it seemed the pirates released the two vessels on Monday and the owners wanted to delay the announcement," Mwangura told Xinhua by telephone from Mombasa.

The MV Sakoba which has a Spanish captain and 15 other crew members from Kenya, Poland, Senegal, Cape Verde and Namibia was taken hostage in waters off the Kenyan and Seychellois coasts in the first week of March.

The Marshall Islands-flagged UBT Ocean which has 21 crew members on board was hijacked while travelling off the coast of Madagascar.

The ship's Norwegian owner Broevigtank said then the vessel had taken a route well south of the zone where pirates operate.

Despite international efforts to curb piracy off the coast of Somalia, the piracy has spread further into the Indian Ocean, widening the area of the mission's patrol.

The Horn of Africa nation's coastline is considered one of the world's most dangerous stretches of water because of piracy.

Somalia is at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, one of the world's most important shipping channels.

The country has been plagued by factional fighting between warlords and hasn't had a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.

International military officials have vowed to fight Somali pirates who have moved into the waters off the coast of East Africa, as attacks begin to decrease.

Somali pirates attacked ships 217 times in 2009, up from 111 attacks in 2008 according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Crews have been successfully repelling more attacks, making it harder for pirates to capture ships and earn multi-million-dollar ransoms. But the pirates have responded more violently.

Many ship owners are investing in physical defences like stringing razor wire and adding fire hoses that can hit attackers with streams of high-pressure water. Some ships are even having electric fence-style systems installed.

Source: Xinhua


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