The owners of a British chemical tanker held by Somali pirates since late December paid a ransom to secure the release of the ship and its 26 crew, the EU anti-piracy mission announced Friday.
The EU mission said in a statement that a ransom was dropped to the pirates holding the St James Park in the Somali port of Garacaad on Thursday.
“All of the crew are reported unharmed and are well despite their ordeal. All of the crew’s families are being notified,” the ship’s owners, Zodiac Maritime Agencies, said in a statement.
“Zodiac’s principal concern throughout the hijack has been for the safety and health of the crew aboard the vessel,” the firm said, with no mention of the ransom payment.
A source in the EU force said that a ransom had been paid “probably by the owner.”
The 14,000 tonne freighter had been heading from Spain for Thailand when it was intercepted. The EU statement said the crew included six Indians, five Bulgarians, three Turks, three Filipinos, three Russians, two Romanians, two Ukrainians, one Georgian and one Pole.
The St James Park was sailing Thursday for “a safe port of refuge”, the ship’s owners said.
The Bulgarian foreign ministry said the vessel was “heading towards the Sultanate of Oman, where a change in crew is expected to take place enabling the five Bulgarian sailors to return home.”
Zodiac Maritime Agencies has another ship flying the British flag held hostage in the region, the Asian Glory, which was seized on January 1 with its crew of 25, including eight Bulgarians.
“The Asian Glory is anchored off the Somali coast. The negotiations with the pirates are ongoing and the company is committed to resolving the hijacking at the earliest opportunity. Our thoughts are with the crew,” the company said in a second statement.
The firm declined to say more, because it “does not wish to jeopardise the safety of crew members held on its second hijacked vessel the Asian Glory, or other vessels and crews that are still being held by Somali pirates in the area.”