German Ship Freed Four Months After Pirate Capture
By Hamsa Omar and Cornelius Rahn
Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A German-flagged ship and its crew were freed four months after the container vessel was seized by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
The Hansa Stavanger is being escorted to the Kenyan port of Mombasa by two vessels of the European Union’s anti-piracy force, Daniel Auwermann, a spokesman for the unit’s operational headquarters in Northwood, England, said today by phone. He declined to say whether a ransom was paid.
Ahmed Hassan, a member of the pirate gang that hijacked the vessel, said in an interview that the brigands released the ship yesterday after receiving $2.7 million from the owners, Hamburg- based Leonhardt-Blumberg.
“There were critical disputes over the amount of ransom recently, but we’ve now received our money,” Hassan said late yesterday by phone from the city of Harardhere, central Somalia.
A spokeswoman for Leonhardt-Blumberg who identified herself only by her surname, Reuter, said the company would not comment beyond a statement welcoming the crew’s release.
The Hansa Stavanger, a 21,000 deadweight-ton freighter, was seized on April 4 about 400 miles (645 kilometers) east of Mombasa, in an area where pirates had not previously been active. It was then taken to Somali waters near Harardhere, the company said.
Hassan said in a July 30 interview that a ransom of $3 million had been agreed with the owners before the gang decided to raise its demands to $4 million, “mainly because we are so many and we have had the ship approximately four months.”
Negotiations with the pirates to free the 24-man crew were conducted by the ship’s owner with the help of the German Foreign Ministry, Auwermann said. A military doctor is attending to the crew comprising 12 nationals of Tuvalu, five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians and two Filipinos, he said.
“I am happy that after four months, an unbelievable long time of suffering for the seamen and their relatives, this hijacking has finally ended,” Frank Leonhardt, Leonhardt- Blumberg managing director, said in a statement posted on the company Web site. All crew members “are fortunately uninjured and in good health.”
The Hansa Stavanger is due to arrive in Mombasa on Aug. 6, the company said. The German frigate Rheinland-Pfalz is escorting the freighter, Eric Wacongne, a spokesman for the EU on military matters, said by phone from Brussels.
Ransoms for ships, many of them seized around the Horn of Africa, have tended to range from $500,000 to $2 million, the Congressional Research Service said in a February report. A sum of $3 million was paid for the Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star last year.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he heard of the Hansa Stavanger’s release “with great relief,” the ministry said in a statement. He wished the freed crew members and their families “strength to get over the ordeal.”
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