Record ransom paid to Somali pirates | World | Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 19.01.2010

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World

Record ransom paid to Somali pirates

Somali pirates have released a Greek supertanker after a record ransom sum of $9 million was paid.

Somali pirates

Large ships often cannot avoid small fast moving pirate skiffs

The ship, known as the Maran Centaurus, was freed along with all of its crew after a plane dropped a ransom payment in cash on the ship's deck.

Ecoterra International, an environmental group that monitors illegal activity in the region's waters, said the cash payment was at least $7 million (4.8 million euros). The group added that an additional $2 million was paid for the crew's release via cash transfer.

The pirates allegedly gave $500 to each of the 28 captured crew members for their "good cooperation." However, their release was delayed when rival pirate groups attempted to hijack the vessel for themselves. Maran Tankers Management Inc., who owns the Maran Centaurus, said all of the crew members were unharmed and escorted to a safe port.

Maran Tankers Management Inc. now holds the record for the highest ransom paid to Somali pirates. The $9 million ransom surpasses the $8 million given for the release of the Saudi-owned Sirius Star last year.

Increased attacks

Pirate attacks on large ships off the coast of Somalia have been a persistent problem in recent years, since Somalia lacks an effective government and many citizens struggle to survive. Ships like the Maran Centaurus are easy targets, as they move much slower than the fast skiffs used by pirates.

The International Maritime Bureau said that in 2009, international piracy attacks increased 39 percent in 2009, and that Somali pirates account for more than half of them.

The Greek ship was heading for the United States from Saudi Arabia with two million barrels of crude oil, and did not have any private guards to secure its cargo.

Foreign navies, including those of EU member states, are active off of Somalia's coast in the Gulf of Aden to protect international ships travelling through the region. However, pirates have begun expanding their operations into the Indian Ocean where it is more difficult for naval patrols to catch them.

The Maran Centaurus was hijacked almost 1300 km (750 miles) away from Somalia, where foreign navies have no presence.

mk/AFP/dpa
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