Risky Voyage

RIYADH, August 2, 2010 (AFP) – A Saudi insurance company is to pay Somali pirates a 20-million-dollar ransom to free a hijacked ship and its 14-member crew held hostage for five months, a newspaper reported on Monday. “The owner of the Al-Nisr Al-Saudi ship, which was hijacked by Somali pirates, said the insurance company has agreed to pay a ransom of 20 million dollars to win the release of the ship and its 14-member crew,” Arab News said.

The pirates had been torturing the crew of 13 Sri Lankans and one Greek as well as threatening to kill them unless the ransom was paid, the daily quoted the ship’s owner, Kamal Arri, as saying.

Arri said his company was waiting for the Saudi government’s approval “to allow the quick payment of the ransom by the insurance company.”

“The consulates of Sri Lanka and Greece have been contacting us, inquiring about the safety of crew members,” he said in the English-language daily.

The tanker, he added, was not carrying any oil when the pirates captured it in the Gulf of Aden in March as it sailed back from Japan to the Saudi port of Jeddah.

Arri said his company had so far lost about eight million dollars as a result of the hijacking.

Arab state