Pirates receive record ransom for South Korean supertanker

2010-11-06 11:33

Mogadishu – Somali pirates said today that they had received a record ransom of $9.5 million (R64 million) for the release of Samho Dream, a South Korean oil supertanker that they had hijacked in the Indian Ocean in early April.

The Samho Dream, which can carry more than 2 million barrels of crude oil, was hijacked and its crew of five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos taken hostage, while carrying as much as $170 million worth of crude oil from Iraq to the United States.

“We are now counting our cash and soon we shall get down from the ship,” said a pirate, who gave his name as Hussein.

Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, said the ransom would be the highest paid out to the pirates since they started hijacking vessels in the past several years.

“They initially demanded $20 million. What I can confirm is that negotiators tell me they agreed to make the drop with an amount in excess of $9 million.

This would be the highest sum paid out to pirates so far,” said Mwangura, who is based in the Kenyan Indian Ocean port of Mombasa.

“What we know from negotiators is that the pirates are on board counting and verifying the cash, and then in a matter of hours the ship is supposed to be released.”

Somali pirates are making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships, including tankers and dry bulkers, in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, despite the efforts of foreign navies to clamp down on such attacks.

“We received an amount of $9.5 million early in the morning. Now we are dividing the ransom and will abandon the ship (soon),” said another pirate, who gave his name as Ali.

The hijacked vessels are usually taken to the Somali coast where they are held until money is paid, although negotiations can take months.

Somalia has lacked an effective central government for almost two decades and is awash with weapons. The mayhem on land has allowed piracy to boom in the strategic waterways off its shores linking Europe to Asia and Africa.

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