14 Pinoy sailors freed by Somali pirates
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A total of 14 Filipino seafarers were released by Somali pirates after being detained for over 10 months, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday, March 12.
The sailors were part of the 26-member crew of the M/V Smyrni, a Greek-owned and Liberian-flagged oil tanker seized off the coast of Oman on May 10, 2012.
A report from the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, said the vessel and its crew were released on March 9 and all the hostages are in good physical condition, the DFA said in a statement.
The 26 crew members are now on their way to Salahah, Oman, where they will undergo a medical checkup.
After that the Filipinos will be handed over to officials from the Philippine Embassy in Muscat and representatives from the manning agency of the M/V Smyrni.
The identities of the seafarers were not disclosed but their families have been informed, and the DFA said that "immediate" repatriation will be facilitated by the embassy.
Nine Filipino seafarers from 2 ships are still being held captive by Somali pirates.
Few details on hijacking
The Smyrni was sailing from Turkey and carrying 135,000 tonnes of crude oil when it was hijacked 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.
Dynacom Tanker Management 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," the statement said.
"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."
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.
The number of Somali pirate attacks is currently at a three-year low, thanks to beefed up naval patrols and teams of armed security guards aboard ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
However, the International Maritime Bureau says Somalia's waters remain extremely dangerous. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria & Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com