Somali pirates release UAE-owned oil tanker

14:57, July 29, 2011      

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Somali pirates have released an oil tanker which was hijacked a week ago that had a Kenyan among the crew after a 200,000 U.S. dollar ransom was paid, a regional maritime official said on Thursday.

Andrew Mwangura, Maritime Editor for Somalia Report said the United Arab Emirates (UAE) vessel, Jubba XX, which had 16 multi- national crew is headed to the port of Bosasso in Somalia, where it is expected to dock later Thursday.

Mwangura said the vessel was released on Wednesday after her captors accepted the ransom from a Somali businessman.

He said the full laden oil product tanker was hijacked by nine heavily armed pirates on July 16 while on passage from UAE heading to Berbera in the breakaway region of Somaliland.

The crew members of the vessel comprised of one Sri Lankan, one Sudanese, one Myanmar, one Kenyan, four Somalis, three Bangladeshi and five Indians.

The vessel was hijacked last Saturday approximately 220 nautical miles Northwest of Socotra, Yemen. "The pirates have become more daring and attack vessels they feel their owners will afford to negotiate and pay ransom," Mwangura told Xinhua.

The official said the vessel is managed and owned by the Sharjah based Jubba General Trading Company.

The vessel, according to the official, is a regular caller to Berbera sea port and operates between UAE and Berbera.

The pirates have intensified their action in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden and most of hijackings end without casualties when a ransom has been paid, but often after several months of negotiations.

The Gulf of Aden, a body of water between Somalia and Yemen, is the main sea route between Europe and Asia. Tankers carrying Middle East oil through the Suez Canal must pass first through the Gulf of Aden.

Pirate gangs operating along Somalia's 1,900-mile-long (3,100- km) coastline have become increasingly audacious over the past two years, hijacking dozens of merchant ships and their crews to earn ransoms that can top 1 million U.S. dollars per ship.

So far the fledgling government has not dared go after the pirate strongholds, since pirate leaders have more power than the beleaguered Somali government.

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