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Pirates free second Malaysian ship

Pirates have released a second Malaysian tanker hijacked near Somalia in exchange for a ransom, the ship owner said on Tuesday.

world Updated: Sep 30, 2008 12:18 IST

Pirates have released a second Malaysian tanker hijacked near Somalia in exchange for a ransom, the ship owner said on Tuesday.

Malaysian shipping line MISC Berhad said the palm oil tanker, MT Bunga Melati 2, was freed on Monday, two days after its first vessel was released.

Chairman Hassan Marican said a ransom was paid for both vessels but declined to reveal the amount. All 79 crew, including 14 Filipinos, on both ships are safe but are traumatized and will undergo counseling, he said.

Malaysian navy warships are escorting the two tankers, which are expected to reach neighboring Djibouti in the next few days, he said.

Hassan slammed Malaysia's local media for speculating that a total ransom of US$4 million was paid.

"You have made MISC a target for the pirates in the future by disclosing an amount that is incorrect," he told reporters. "Going forward, we will take necessary steps to protect our vessels and our crew."

Pirates hijacked the two ships last month in the Gulf of Aden, north of war-torn Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991. One Filipino crew member died in the raid. Malaysia has sent two warships and an offshore patrol vessel to protect its vessels near piracy-plagued Somalia.

Hassan said the warships are expected to be based in the area for at least three months to protect Malaysian commercial ships. There have been new attempts by unidentified trawlers to seize MISC vessels in the area, including an unsuccessful attack by pirates disguised as fishermen in a security corridor patrolled by international warships, he added.

Sixty-two ships have been attacked in the notorious African waters this year. A total of 26 ships were hijacked, and 12 remain in the hands of the pirates along with more than 200 crew members. Most pirate attacks occur in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, to the north of the African country. But recently pirates have been targeting Indian Ocean waters off eastern Somalia.

International warships are patrolling the area and have created a special security corridor under a US-led initiative, but attacks have not abated.