ATHENS/BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Somali pirates have released a Greek-owned oil tanker and its 26 crew members who were seized 10 months ago in the Arabian Sea, the vessel's owner, Dynacom Tankers Management, said on Monday.
Monday, March 11, 2013
The MT Smyrni, which was carrying one million barrels of crude, was hijacked in May last year off the Gulf Arab state of Oman. Pirates said they released the vessel last week after receiving ransom.
"We took $9.5 million in ransom money and got off from the crude tanker on Friday night," Isse Abdulahi, who is understood to be one of four pirates who financed the hijacking operation, told Reuters by telephone.
The company declined to comment on the ransom claim. It said in a statement that all the crew members - 14 Filipinos, 11 Indians and one Romanian - were safe and that the vessel was sailing to a port of refuge.
Abdulahi said that two crew members were ill.
Global ship tracking data showed MT Smyrni had left the northern tip of Somalia on Saturday. It sailed south to central Somalia before changing course and heading away from the Somali coast towards India on Sunday.
The hijacking in May 2012 as MT Smyrni was sailing to Indonesia was one of the last successful attacks on a large oil tanker by Somali pirates in the Horn of Africa region.
The number of successful pirate attacks has dropped as international navies have stepped up patrols to protect marine traffic and struck at pirate bases on the Somali coast as piracy has driven up shipping costs, including insurance.
Shipping firms have also increasingly deployed armed guards and laid out razor wire on their vessels to deter attacks.
MT Smyrni was the second tanker to be freed by Somali pirates within the last few days. A chemical tanker hijacked a year ago with more than 20 crew on board was also released last week.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens and Abdiqani Hassan in Bosasso, editing by Deepa Babington and Mark Heinrich)