Somali pirates free Greek ship

December 10th, 2008 - 11:08 am ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, Dec 10 (Xinhua) Somali pirates have released a Greek ship, MV Capt Stephanos, which they hijacked in the Gulf of Aden in September, a regional maritime organisation said Tuesday.The ship along with 19 crewmembers was released late Monday, East Africa Seafarers Assistance Programme said in a statement. Seventeen Filipino sailors, one Ukrainian and a Chinese citizen were on board the ship when it was hijacked Sep 21.

“The ship’s holding company Chartworld Shipping Corp (Athens) confirmed the release of MV Capt Stephanos, along with the crewmembers after 11 weeks of captivity,” the statement said.

All the crewmembers are in good health, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.

The ship is currently sailing towards Brindisi port in Italy.

Maritime officials said that there has been a surge in piracy attacks this year in the Gulf of Aden, forcing countries to send their warships to the region to police the busy shipping route. In addition, millions of dollars have been spent in ransoms to release the hijacked ships.

At least 15 foreign vessels, including a Saudi tanker Sirius Star, with millions of dollars of crude oil and a Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina, carrying Soviet-era tanks, are still in the custody of the pirates, they said.

The US, Russia, India, NATO and the European Union have all sent their warships to Somali waters to end piracy.

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