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Somali pirates free tanker after ransom
Somali, Jan 18 (Agencies):
Published on 19 Jan. 2010 12:12 AM IST
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One of the largest ships ever seized by pirates was released on Monday amid reports that it had fetched the highest ransom in the history of pirate attacks. The Maran Centaurus, which was seized on November 29, 762 nautical miles off Somalia’s east coast, was released at 8.30am local time, according to a statement issued by London-based Maran Tankers Management, the vessel’s operator. Maran Tankers is part of the Athens-based, privately-held Angelicoussis Group, one of the world’s largest operators of oil tankers. There were reports of disputes between two rival pirate groups over the ship and division of the ransom in the run-up to the release. Andrew Mwangura, of the Mombasa-based East African Sailors’ Assistance Programme, said there were rival reports about the size of the ransom paid. One put the sum at $5.5m, while the other said two separate sums of $7m and $2m had been paid. Both sums are far larger than the $3m generally believed to have been paid in January last year for the release of the Saudi-owned Sirius Star, the largest ship seized by pirates. The Maran Centaurus – which has a cargo capacity of 300,294 deadweight tonnes and was carrying 2m barrels of oil when seized – is only slightly smaller than the Sirius Star. It is only the second Very Large Crude Carrier – the largest commonly-used type of tanker – to have been seized by pirates. “The tanker with all crew on board is now under naval escort en route to a suitable safe port,” Maran Tankers Management said. “All 28 members of the officers and crew of the Maran Centaurus are safe and well and looking forward to being reunited with their families.” Last year was the worst year for pirate activity off Somalia’s coasts , according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau, which monitors piracy. It said 47 ships were seized during the year. According to its figures, which have not yet been adjusted for the Maran Centaurus’s release, 11 ships and 266 crew continue to be held off Somalia’s coasts. The figures would have been far worse had it not been for an improvement in the ability of both international naval forces and seafarers themselves in preventing attackers from successfully hijacking vessels. Last year’s hijackings were a result of 217 attacks off Somalia, while the 42 hijackings in 2008 came from 111 attacks. The Maran Centaurus’s seizure was one of a rash of attacks hundreds of miles off Somalia’s coasts in the Indian Ocean. Attacks there have a far higher chance of success because it is far harder for international naval forces to patrol than the Gulf of Aden off northern Somalia.

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