Somali pirates release Taiwanese vessel after nearly a year

BRUSSELS: Somali pirates on Friday released a Taiwanese vessel along with its crew of 28, ending nearly a year of captivity, the European Union Naval Force: Somalia (EUNAVFOR) said.

EU Naval Force spokesman Paddy O'Kennedy said the Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel FV Tai Yuan 227 is believed to have either been released by pirates or has escaped them. "Although exact details surrounding the situation are not known at this time, there are indications that the Taiwanese flagged fishing vessel Tai Yuan 227 has either been released or has escaped from pirate control," O'Kennedy said.

The Taiwanese vessel was hijacked on May 6, 2010 about 700 nautical miles (1,300 kilometers) northeast of Seychelles, an island country in the Indian Ocean, east of mainland Africa. Most recently, the vessel was suspected of being used as a pirate mothership to hijack other vessels.

"Although direct contact with the crew has not been possible, the vessel's owners apparently received a call from the master stating that they had been released but that they did not know why," O'Kennedy said. "The crew were provided with fresh food and water by a US warship after the release. The vessel is currently heading away from Somalia."

The FV Tai Yuan 227 was carrying a crew of 28 when it was hijacked last year, consisting of nine Chinese, three Vietnamese, three Filipinos, seven Kenyans and two from Mozambique. Their conditions were not immediately known.

Currently, Somali pirates are holding around 30 vessels with a total of more than 700 hostages, according to the European Union Naval Force: Somalia, which keeps a record of pirating incidents. Most hijackings usually end without casualties when a ransom has been paid. This, however, often takes many months.

In recent years, Somali pirates have hijacked hundreds of ships, taking in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom. Ships are patrolling the shipping lanes near Somalia in an effort to reduce hijackings, but the anti-piracy force has warned that attacks are likely to continue.

According to a recent study, maritime piracy cost the global economy up to $12 billion last year, with Somalia-based pirates responsible for 95 percent of the costs.


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