BERLIN Somali pirates have freed the hijacked German merchant vessel Beluga Fortune and its 16-strong crew without getting a ransom payment, Bremen-based owner Beluga Shipping said Monday, a day after the bulk carrier was taken.
"The cool-headed behavior...of the Beluga crew on board and the quick action of navy units...left the pirates no other option than to give up their dream of a million (dollar) ransom and to flee," Beluga Shipping said in a statement.
The crew members made a distress call, locked themselves in a safety room, turned off the engines and fuel supply, put the bridge out of action and radioed a navy intelligence plane.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle confirmed the rescue.
Somalia has lacked an effective central government for almost two decades and is awash with weapons. The mayhem on land has allowed piracy to boom in the strategic waterways off its shores linking Europe to Asia and Africa.
This weekend it was reported that pirates from the lawless Horn of Africa nation also grabbed a Singapore-flagged liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker 50 miles off the coast of east Africa.
Ship hijackings worldwide hit a five-year high in the first nine months of this year, led by Somali pirates striking further away from the country's coast to avoid naval patrols, a maritime watchdog said earlier this month.
Somali pirates are holding 20 vessels with more than 430 hostages, according to EU Navfor. Typically they receive a ransom for their release.
(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; editing by Michael Roddy)