MV Sirius Star oil tanker released by pirates

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The ransom money is delivered by a parachute dropped by a small aircraft.

Somali pirates have released the MV Sirius Star, the biggest ship ever hijacked, after a ransom payment was made. Five pirates drowned while leaving the 330 metre oil tanker.

The vessel was hijacked 500 miles from the Kenyan coast on November 15 with two million barrels of crude oil, worth $100 million. It was then anchored off the coast of Somalia at Haradhere, a coastal town used by pirates.

It was released yesterday after a ransom of $3 million was paid by owner Saudi Aramco, significantly less than the $25 million originally demanded. After the money was parachuted in the pirates left the vessel, with all 25 crew unharmed. However, one pirate boat carrying eight pirates and some of the money capsized on its way to shore due to rough weather, and five of the occupants drowned.

The vessel at anchor a few days after it was hijacked

The Sirius Star, which had been taking oil from Saudi Arabia to the United States, headed to Kenya after release. It anchored in deep waters, and a smaller boat took the crew to shore at Mombasa.

The pirate faction involved, one of at least five in the Gulf of Aden, is called the Central Regional Coastguard (CRC). The CRC is also holding Ukranian arms ship MV Faina, with a cargo of 33 T-72 tanks, two cargo ships from Turkey and tugs from Indonesia and Nigeria. Negotiations for the release of all these ships are said to be near to completion.

Do you believe the ransom should have been paid?

Also released Friday was the Hong Kong-registered MV Delight, an Iranian-chartered vessel carrying 36,000 tons of wheat and a crew of 25. It is unclear if any ransom was paid for the ship, seized in November. The crew are in good health and the cargo ship is headed to a port in Iran.