Thursday, December 13, 2007
Somali pirates, who seized a Japanese-owned chemical tanker in October and were demanding ransom, have left the vessel without hurting any of its crew, a US military spokesperson said. The Panama-registered Golden Nori was carrying benzene from Singapore to Israel when it was hijacked on October 28, just off Somalia, one of the world's most dangerous shipping lanes. US and German navy ships had cornered the vessel, opening fire and destroying speedboats the hijacked tanker had in tow, earlier this month. "All the pirates are off the vessel. The US Navy has a ship nearby. We're standing by to offer assistance," said Lieutenant John Gay of the US Navy Central Command in Bahrain.
Golden Nori"All the crew is safe." He gave no further details on how the pirates had left the ship. Somali officials have said there are 21 crew members on board. The US Navy, which has had a long presence in the region, has concentrated its anti-piracy efforts along Somalia's central coast after several ships were hijacked there this year. Gay said the Golden Nori was now under way to another port. "We will escort them if necessary," he said. "Our aim was to get the pirates off the ship and ensure the crew was safe." He also said it was the first time since late 2006 that the Somali coast was free of ships seized by pirates.