The Philippines government said on March 12 that Somali pirates freed 26 sailors, including 14 Filipinos, who were seized on a Greek-owned oil tanker in the Arabian Sea10 months ago, ABC Radio Australia reported.
The Liberian-flagged Mt. Smyrni as well as its crew were released on March 9 and were enroute to Oman, the foreign affairs department said in a statement. “All of the crew members are in good physical condition,” the statement said.
The Smyrni was carrying 135,000 tons of crude oil when it was hijacked on May 10 last year. It had sailed from Turkey and was seized 300 nautical miles east of Oman as it headed towards Somalia.
No reason was given as to why the pirates released the vessel, owned by Athens-based Dynacom Tanker Management, and its crew, but typically it’s because a ransom was paid, although no details were given. The company also released a short statement on its website confirming the release, without explaining the circumstances.
“We are very pleased to report that the Mt. Smyrni has been released after ten months in the captivity of Somali pirates. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the crew, their families, our employees and those agencies that have provided support through this long ordeal.”
As ABC Radio Australia reported, pirates based in lawless Somalia have in recent years netted millions of dollars in ransom payments by carrying out high-profile sea hijackings, which have driven up the costs of shipping along vital seaways. However, the International Maritime Bureau says Somalia’s waters remain extremely dangerous.
The Philippines foreign affairs department said Somali pirates were still holding nine other Filipino sailors taken hostage from two other vessels.