Record Ransom Paid to Somali Pirates for Release of Oil Tanker
January 19, 2010
According to Reuters, Somali pirates have freed a Greek-flagged tanker carrying 2 million barrels of oil for a record ransom and witnesses said four pirates were killed in a clash between rival groups over the cash. The release of the ship came a day after the money was dropped onto its deck. The Maran Centaurus was seized on November 29 with 16 Filipinos, nine Greeks, two Ukrainians and a Romanian on board. An aircraft dropped a ransom believed to be between $5.5 million and $7 million onto the vessel a day earlier, officials said. The ransom dwarfed sums paid previously for vessels held by Somali sea gangs. A dispute between two rival pirate groups over the spoils had delayed its release. Ecoterra International, a Nairobi-based group that monitors shipping off Somalia, said two pirates had been killed in a gunbattle with a rival gang as they returned to shore. Four pirates were killed and three others injured when one group attacked another for failing to give them their share of the ransom, pirates and locals said. They added that piracy financiers were also involved in the fighting. The Greek owner of the tanker, Maran Tankers Management Inc., said in a statement from Athens it was "delighted" the ship, its crew and cargo had been freed and were now under naval escort to a safe port.