IMO Secretary-General Urges Vigilance after Tanker Hijack

"While we have seen a very welcome decline in piracy off Somalia since the last reported hijack by Somali pirates in 2012, the reality is that piracy off the coast of Somalia has not been eradicated and the underlying conditions have not changed", said Lim.

Reuters quoted Director General of the Maritime Force in Puntland as saying that the hijacked vessel is docked in seas off Alula city of semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

John Steed, regional manager of the watchdog group Oceans Without Piracy, told VOA, "They [the pirates] were given an offer they could not refuse - live or die".

Earlier on Thursday the Puntland coastguard had threatened to use force if the talks to convince the pirates to release the vessel failed.

Mohamed said the release occurred after negotiations by local elders and officials with the pirates, who seized the tanker on Monday.

The hijackers, who insisted they were fishermen, not pirates, said they wanted "compensation" for illegal fishing off the coast of Somalia, but did not make specific ransom demands.

Mr Hassan earlier said that "pirates" on board the tanker had opened fire on Thursday after authorities tried to intercept a boat believed to be carrying essential supplies, such as food.

At least one Puntland naval soldier was wounded after they exchanged gunfire with the pirates, but no confirmed casualties from the pirates.

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The gunmen are demanding a ransom to release the ship and its Sri Lankan crew, said the EU Naval Force.

"The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday afternoon".

"They desperately need to show their grievances by seizing the boat", said Abdiwahab Ahmed, an elder in the coastal town of Alula.

The vessel was carrying oil and was owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite conflicting reports over the flag it was sailing under, he added.

That year, Ocean's Beyond Piracy estimated the global cost of piracy was about $7 billion.

Though anti-piracy measures ended attacks on commercial vessels, fishing boats have continued to face attacks.

But frustrations have been rising among local fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.

  • Myrtle Hill