February 28, 2010 / 9:19 AM / 10 years ago

Somali pirates free Panama-registered cargo vessel

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A Panamanian-registered cargo ship seized by Somali pirates two months ago has been released after a ransom was air-dropped on to the vessel, maritime officials said Sunday.

The bulk carrier Navios Apollon was hijacked about 800 miles off the Somali coast north of the Seychelles while on its way from the United States to India with a cargo of fertilizer.

“The last gunman disembarked from the ship last night. She is steaming out to safe waters,” Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East Africa Seafarers’ Assistance Program told Reuters by telephone.

The vessel is managed by the Greek firm Navios ShipManagement and a Greek government official confirmed its release.

“The Navios Apollon was released yesterday evening. The ship is now sailing to Oman and its final destination is India. They are all well and safe,” a Merchant Marine Ministry official told Reuters in Athens.

An unspecified sum of money was air-dropped on to the ship as a ransom, maritime officials said.

All 19 members of the crew, one Greek and 18 Filipinos, were safe, Mwangura added.

Piracy attacks rose by almost 40 percent worldwide last year, with gunmen from the failed Horn of Africa state of Somalia accounting for more than half the 406 reported incidents, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri and Renee Maltezou in Athens; editing by Andrew Dobbie

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