Somali pirates have released the Greek-owned chemical tanker Liquid Velvet and its 21 crewmembers, who were held captive for the last seven months.
The pirates released the vessel on June 4 after receiving a US$4 million ransom, according to the Somalia Report. The pirates had initially demanded US$8 million in ransom in December last year.
Liquid Velvet was attacked by pirates operating from a single skiff in the Gulf of Aden on October 31, whilst en route from Morocco to Goa, India, with 21 Filipino crewmembers on board. The crew sought shelter in a safe room but the pirates managed to break in and take full control of the ship, before forcing the crew to sail towards Puntland.
In February the Somalia Report stated that pirates were fighting over the ransom for the vessel. The Ilaalo group, the security detail guarding the MT Liquid Velvet, refused to take orders from their seniors. “The conflict was a serious one related to ransom negotiations, but yesterday it turned physical,” the publication quoted a source said to be close to the pirate group in Garacad. The pirates aboard the vessel were open to any amount of ransom offered by the owner of the ship but the investors were demanding at least US$8 million in ransom.
The Marshall Islands flagged vessel is owned by the Greece-based Elmira Tankers and has a gross tonnage of 5 998 tons.
The Philippines’ Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez on Friday said the tanker was released on June 4 and that the families of crewmembers were informed. The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs instructed its embassy in Muscat, Oman, to provide assistance to the crew once the vessel docks at the Omani port of Salalah.
At present there are still 45 Filipino seafarers on board five vessels being held captive by pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
As of June 7, Somali pirates are holding 178 hostages and 12 vessels, according to the International Maritime Bureau. This year Somali pirates have hijacked 12 vessels and taken 188 hostages during 61 attacks, making up the vast majority of pirate attacks around the world. According to the Bureau, there have been 157 pirate attacks around the world this year, leading to 18 successful hijackings.