Saudi ransom for hijacked ship 'approved'
Riyadh, August 2, 2010
A $20 million ransom from insurers for Somali pirates who hijacked a Saudi ship and its crew of 14 in March has been approved by Saudi Arabia's central bank, the Arab News reported on Monday.
The ship's owner told Arab News that the crew -- one Greek and 13 Sri Lankans -- was being tortured by their captors.
The ship was seized on March 1 as it returned from Japan to the Saudi port town of Jeddah and was not carrying any oil.
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 payment needs the Interior Ministry's approval to secure the release of the crew aboard the 5,136-ton Al-Nisr Al-Saudi.
'Being the ship's owner, we have already sent a cable to the Interior Ministry to allow quick payment of ransom by the insurance company,' Kamal Arri, manager of International Bunkering Co., was quoted as saying.
The London-headquartered International Maritime Bureau said its piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur logged a total of 196 pirate incidents globally from January to June.
This included 31 successful hijackings, 27 of which were off the coast of Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden. - Reuters