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Record ransom paid to pirates

Anonymous Coward
User ID: 866044
01/18/2010 08:56 AM
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Record ransom paid to pirates
Record ransom paid to pirates for Greek supertanker

By Mustafa Haji Abdinur (AFP) 5 hours ago

MOGADISHU Somali pirates freed the Greek supertanker Maran Centaurus, one of the largest ships ever hijacked, after a plane dropped a record ransom on the deck.

The ransom sparked a deadly feud within the group of pirates, delaying the release of the ship and its crew of 28 who were taken in the Indian Ocean on November 29.

"Maran Tankers Management Inc... report that the vessel was released by those holding her at 0830 local time today (0530 GMT)," the operators and managers of the Greek juggernaut said in a statement.

"The tanker with all crew on board is now under naval escort on route to a suitable safe port."

The European Union's anti-piracy naval mission said the FS Salamis warship had sent a helicopter for medical assistance and added that the 332-metre (1,000-foot) freed vessel was headed for Durban in South Africa.

Ecoterra International, an environmental group that monitors illegal maritime activity in the region, said the last pirates left the 1995-built supertanker early Monday.

"The stash of the record-breaking ransom (over seven million dollars) is reportedly now held in a heavily guarded house in Harardhere," the group said in a statement.

At least seven million dollars are believed to have been dropped from a small plane directly onto the deck of the oil-laden juggernaut and another two million dollars paid in cash transfer.

Ecoterra added that pirates reportedly bragged about generously giving 500 dollars to each crew member -- 16 Filipinos, nine Greeks, two Ukrainians and a Romanian -- "for good cooperation".

The total of around nine million dollars exceeds the eight million believed to have been paid for the release a year ago of the Sirius Star, a Saudi-owned supertanker of roughly the same size.

Clashes broke out over the sharing of the bounty which resulted in two deaths, according to pirate sources in Harardhere.

Ransom payments routinely trigger deadly struggles between the pirates' fractious clans.

The hijacking of the Sirius Star in 2008 sent shockwaves through the shipping world as pirates showed their power in one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.

The incident also raised fears that pirates might one day use a hijacked ship as a weapon to carry out an attack and cause unprecedented human and environmental damage.

Foreign naval missions have largely secured the Gulf of Aden but are powerless to effectively patrol the wider Indian Ocean and shipowners are increasingly turning to private security to fend off the pirates.

The Maran Centaurus, which had no private guards to secure its two million barrels of crude oil, was headed from Saudi Arabia to the United States.

The 300,000-tonne (deadweight) supertanker, hijacked by nine pirates, was easy prey for pirates equipped with fast skiffs and grapnels as it moves slowly, could not outmanoeuvre the sea bandits and has a low freeboard.

Supertankers such as these, with less than 30 crew on a ship a third of a kilometre long, cruise on auto-pilot most of the time and would rarely have anybody keeping watch on deck at night.

Since foreign navies deployed to protect the crucial maritime choking point of the Gulf of Aden, Somalia pirates have ventured deeper into the Indian Ocean, seizing ships as far east as the Seychelles and beyond.

Always paid in cash to avoid modern transaction monitoring, large ransoms have often been parachuted from small planes directly onto the deck of the hijacked ship.

In the Maran Centaurus' case, such an operation was facilitated by the fact that its deck can hold three football pitches.

According to Ecoterra, the pirates still hold at least 11 ships and around 270 seamen hostage.

[link to www.google.com]
Anonymous Coward
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01/18/2010 08:57 AM
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Re: Record ransom paid to pirates
I love pirates.