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Somali pirates free Greek vessel

world Updated: Oct 19, 2010 08:07 IST
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Somali pirates have released a Greek-operated vessel and its crew of 21 Filipinos following the payment of a ransom, the shipping company and a maritime watchdog said on Monday.

The Panama-flagged, Liberian-owned MV VOC Daisy, which was hijacked on April 21 in the Gulf of Aden, is on its way to Salalah in Oman, said Ecoterra International, an environmental NGO monitoring regional maritime activity.

The release was confirmed by the Greek shipping company, JP Samartzis Maritime Enterprises.

"We have spoken to the captain, we don't have many details but the crew are well, given what they have been through, and it appears they were not subjected to violence," the company's CEO George Shinitis told AFP.

The watchdog said the bulk carrier has been free since at least Saturday following the delivery of a ransom "by a vessel believed to belong to a Greek security company operating in the area with two ships."

Shinitis would not provide any details on the ransom, but said the company would no longer route bulk carriers through the area.

"Container ships will still go there, because they are higher in the water and quick, but bulk carriers are too vulnerable, too low and slow," he said.

Following the ship's release and weekend confirmation that Somali pirates had seized a Korean fishing vessel earlier this month, the number of foreign ships currently held for ransom stands at 25, according to Ecoterra.

October is traditionally a busy month for Somalia's marauding pirate gangs, who take advantage of calm weather between monsoon seasons to hunt some of the thousands of vessels plying the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to patrol the region's waters but they have failed to stem piracy, one of the few thriving businesses for coastal communities in a country devastated by war and poverty.