Risky Voyage

NAIROBI, December 9, 2010 (AFP) – Somali pirates have released a Saudi oil tanker along with its 14-member crew which they seized nine months ago after a ransom was paid, a maritime watchdog said on Thursday. One act of piracy out of every two worldwide is carried out off the coasts of Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden, according to the International maritime Bureau.

The MT Al Nisr Al Saudi, a 5,136-tonne tanker, was seized in early March with its Greek captain and 13 Sri Lankan crew members while on its way from Japan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

“It was freed Tuesday after a ransom was paid,” said Ecoterra International, an environmental NGO monitoring maritime activity in the region.

“It is now safe and under escort and all crew members are safe,” an Ecoterra official added.

After it was seized the tanker was first moored off Garad, a pirate lair in central Somalia, then transferred to Kulub port.

Ecoterra said the Al Nisr Al Saudi was used in October by pirates who launched a failed attack against another commercial vessel, the Maltese-flagged Go Trader.

Somali pirates are holding 35 foreign vessels and at least 649 hostages, the group said.

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