Somali pirates released a chemical tanker and its North Korean crew yesterday after holding the vessel for four months, a maritime official said.
The 22 294 deadweight tonne Theresa VIII was seized on Nov. 16 last year in the south Somali Basin northwest of the Seychelles with 28 crew members on board.
Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme said the vessel was released after a ransom of about $3.5 million was paid.
“Theresa VIII and her 28 all North Korean crew members are now free,” said Mwangura.
Somali sea gangs have plagued the busy shipping lanes off Somalia for several years earning ransoms worth millions of dollars from most vessels captured.
Somali pirates were held responsible for more than half of the 406 reported incidents in 2009. They hijacked 47 vessels and 867 crew members were taken hostage, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
Most vessels and crew are released unharmed after a ransom has been paid, although some sailors have been wounded during hijackings and others have had health problems after protracted periods of captivity off the Somali coast.
Pic: Somali pirates