The MV Faina to be released?

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Somali pirates have reportedly agreed to a ransom for a Ukrainian roll-on roll-off (RO-RO) ship carrying 33 T72 tanks and other heavy weapons, while Saudi Arabia is confident another group of pirates will shortly release a very large crude carrier hijacked last month and a third group of sea brigands at the weekend attempted to shanghai a cruise ship.
The Associated Press reports from Moscow that the MV Faina could be freed with its crew if agreement was reached on how to get the ransom money to the pirates who seized the ship off the coast of Somalia in late September.
“The owner has confirmed there is every reason to hope that it will be released in the coming week,” Mikhail Voitenko, editor of Maritime Bulletin-Sovfrakht, a shipping news Web site told The AP.
He said he is acting as spokesman for the Faina’s owner, Vadim Alperin. A man who answered the phone at Ukraine-based Tomex Team, the ship’s technical manager, confirmed that Voitenko was the owner’s spokesman. The man refused to give his name.
Voitenko would not give the amount of the agreed ransom, but suggested it was far lower than the pirates’ initial $20 million demand. He said the average ransom for ships hijacked in the region in recent months was $1.5 million to $1.8 million and that the latest public demand he was aware of for the Faina was $3 million.
A spokesman for the pirates did not answer calls Sunday to his satellite phone, and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it could not comment on reports that the Faina’s release could be imminent, The AP says.
Voitenko said the Faina’s hijackers may be seeking a guarantee that they will not be attacked at sea or on shore after releasing the ship. “The pirates may fear that the Americans will do something like the French,” he said, referring to French sailors who have made assaults on seized French yachts and pursued pirates onto Somali soil. The US Navy has kept a close watch on the Faina since she was seized in September.
Meanwhile, pirates have attacked a 30 000-ton luxury cruise ship off the coast of Yemen this weekend.
The Nautica was in an area patrolled by international anti-piracy task forces when two small skiffs appeared to try to intercept it, Oceania spokesman Tim Rubacky told CNN.
The ship took evasive manoeuvres and accelerated to its full speed of 23 knots or 27 mph. One of the smaller craft closed to within 300 metres and fired eight rifle shots at the cruise ship, he said, but the ship was able to pull away.
It was the first report of a pirate attack on a passenger ship of its size this year, said Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau, which runs a piracy reporting centre.
“There have been a couple of passenger yachts hijacked, but they were much smaller,” he said. It is “quite common” for pirates to target ships the size of the Nautica and even larger, he said, but they tend to be cargo ships, not passenger vessels,” he told the television network.
The Nautica escaped without damage or injury to its 684 passengers and 400 crew, and arrived safely on schedule in Salalah, Oman early on Monday morning, Rubacky said.
He emphasized that the ship was not off the coast of Somalia, which has become a base for pirates, but off the coast of Yemen in a “Maritime Safety Protection Area” patrolled by international anti-piracy task forces.
But Mody warned that there was only so much navies could do even in that zone. “The zone has been created to enable navies to patrol and concentrate on a much smaller area than the entire Gulf,” he said.
“But, saying that, it is still a large area. Vessels do not automatically get guaranteed safe passage even if they use it.”
The Nautica left Rome November 18 on a 32-day cruise to Singapore. It was the first time one of the company’s cruise ships had encountered possible pirates, Rubacky added.
He said the company did not plan to change routes to avoid the area, which has seen increasingly audacious piracy in recent months. “We’re not considering re-routing as the Gulf of Aden is the most viable gateway from the Med to Asia,” he said.
  
The Saudi supertanker the Sirius Star, seized by Somali pirates on November 15, will be released within the next two days, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Kenya said on Monday.
Nabil Ashur said in an interview with the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that his country was optimistic the supertanker and its crew would be released.
The report was confirmed by Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Khalid bin Saud bin Khalid.
“We have signals giving us hope for a positive outcome soon,” he said.
He reiterated that the authorities were not in negotiations with the pirates and did not intend to pay a ransom.
The Liberian-flagged oil tanker MV Sirius Star, owned by Saudi Aramco, was seized about 830 km (516 miles) southeast of Mombasa, Kenya.
The supertanker is believed to be carrying some 2 million barrels of crude, equivalent to a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s daily output. It is the largest ship ever captured at sea.
The pirates had originally demanded $25 million for the release of the Sirius Star and its crew, insisting that the ransom be paid within the next 10 days. The demand was later dropped to $12 million.
The crew of 25 includes nationals from Croatia, Britain, Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
According to Somali negotiators involved in the hostage talks, all the crewmembers are in a satisfactory condition.
Somali pirates have attacked around 90 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of around 39 vessels, including 200 crew members. The east African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his quarterly report to the UN Security Council in November that pirates had earned up to $30 million in ransoms this year. The Security Council has also adopted a British-proposed resolution on tougher sanctions against Somalia over the country’s failure to prevent a surge in sea piracy.
NATO and the EU are to launch on December 8 a joint naval operation, dubbed Atalanta, against piracy near the coast of Somalia. The operation could involve up to 10 warships.
In another development, RIA Novosti reports from Cairo, Egypt, that the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Kenya has told the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that his country was optimistic the supertanker and its crew would be released – without ransom.
The report was confirmed by Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Khalid bin Saud bin Khalid. “We have signals giving us hope for a positive outcome soon,” he said.
He reiterated that the authorities were not in negotiations with the pirates and did not intend to pay a ransom.
The Liberian-flagged oil tanker MV Sirius Star, owned by Saudi Aramco, was seized about 830 km (516 miles) southeast of Mombasa, Kenya on 15November.
The supertanker is believed to be carrying some 2 million barrels of crude, equivalent to a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s daily output. It is the largest ship ever captured at sea.
The pirates had originally demanded $25 million for the release of the Sirius Star and its crew, insisting that the ransom be paid within the next 10 days. The demand was later dropped to $12 million.
The crew of 25 includes nationals from Croatia, Britain, Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
According to Somali negotiators involved in the hostage talks, all the crewmembers are in a satisfactory condition.
Somali pirates have attacked around 90 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of around 39 vessels, including 200 crew members. The east African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his quarterly report to the UN Security Council in November that pirates had earned up to $30 million in ransoms this year. The Security Council has also adopted a British-proposed resolution on tougher sanctions against Somalia over the country’s failure to prevent a surge in sea piracy.
NATO and the EU are to launch on 8 December a joint naval operation, dubbed Atalanta, against piracy near the coast of Somalia. The operation could involve up to 10 warships.