Somali pirates, Saudi ship owner say ransom agreed
14-member crew held aboard ship since March.
August 3, 2010 2:52 by Reuters
Somali pirates and the owners of a Saudi ship held since March with 14 crew said on Tuesday they had agreed to a ransom of around $2-3 million, and a newspaper withdrew a report that the ransom was $20 million.
“We (pirates) and the owners of the Saudi ship had agreed on $3 million not $20 million,” Said, a Somali pirate on the captured Saudi ship al-Nisr, told Reuters by telephone.
“$20 million was our initial demand but not the final amount agreed upon, and the ship is not worth $20 million ransom when you consider its capacity.”
The Arab News newspaper on Monday said a $20 million ransom from insurers had been approved by Saudi Arabia’s central bank. However, the newspaper said on Tuesday that the figure was a misquotation and it would correct its story.
Pirates from impoverished Somalia, which is battling an Islamist insurgency, have stepped up attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.
The al-Nisr, with 13 Sri Lankans and one Greek crew member, was seized on March 1 as it returned from Japan to the Saudi port of Jeddah and was not carrying any oil.
Munir Gondal, head of operations at Saudi firm International Bunkering Co., which owns the ship, said the agreed ransom was slightly less than $2 million.
“This is a human problem: You have 14 crew members held aboard the ship,” he told Reuters. “$20 million was demanded five months ago, but the ship itself is not worth $2.4 million. The insurer will never pay the full value of the ship.”
Gondal said Saudi IAIC Cooperative Insurance Co (SALAMA) was the ship’s insurer. Salama is 30-percent owned by UAE-based Islamic Arab Insurance. The Saudi central bank was waiting for the Interior Ministry to approve the payment before the funds could be released, he said.
The London-based International Maritime Bureau said its piracy reporting centre logged 196 pirate incidents globally from January to June, including 31 successful hijackings, 27 of which were off the coast of Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden.
(Reporting by Mohamed Ahmed, Abdi Guled and Souhail Karam; Editing by Peter Graff)