| BOSASSO, Somalia, March 9
BOSASSO, Somalia, March 9 Somali pirates have
released a chemical tanker they hijacked a year ago with more
than 20 crew on board after receiving a ransom, the pirates and
a minister from the semi-autonomous Puntland region said on
The pirates said they had abandoned the UAE-owned MT Royal
Grace, which was seized off Oman last March. The European
Union's anti-piracy taskforce said one of its warships
patrolling off Somalia had provided food, water and medical
assistance to the ship's crew.
"We got off the vessel late last night. We happily divided
the cash among ourselves," a pirate who identified himself only
as Ismail told Reuters by telephone.
Civil war after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in
1991 left Somalia without effective central government and full
of weapons. The turmoil opened the doors for piracy to flourish
in the Gulf of Aden and deeper into the Indian Ocean.
Said Mohamed Rage, minister of ports and anti-piracy for
Puntland - a region in northeast Somalia - confirmed the ransom
and the release of the Panama-registered vessel.
It was not clear what cargo the tanker was carrying or who
paid to free the vessel, but typically ship owners and the
owners of cargo pay ransoms through insurance policies.
In 2011, Somali pirates preying on the waterways linking
Europe with Africa and Asia netted $160 million and cost the
world economy about $7 billion, according to U.S.-based think
tank the One Earth Future foundation.
But the number of successful pirate attacks has since fallen
dramatically as international navies have stepped up patrols to
protect marine traffic and struck at pirate bases on the Somali
coast, prompted by soaring shipping costs, including insurance.
Shipping firms have also increasingly deployed armed guards
and laid out razor wire on their vessels to deter attacks.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in February granted
an amnesty to hundreds of young Somali pirates in a attempt to
draw them away from gangs responsible for hijackings and reduce
the threat to shipping in the seas off the Horn of Africa state.
(Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Pravin Char)