Somali pirates have released an Iranian bulk carrier after a week, a British naval official based in Dubai said yesterday. The MV Eglantine, a Bolivian-flagged ship with 23 crew members was seized on March 26 off the south-western coast of India. Hijacking this year has spread further east as the waters grow calmer, allowing pirates to travel further from Somalia, said James Cohen, a commander in the British Royal Navy and officer in charge of the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) based in Dubai.
The seasonal trend continues until late June or early July, after which monsoons make the sea more difficult for piracy. The UKMTO liaises with commercial vessels travelling through waters at risk of Somali piracy and with navies running counter-piracy patrols. In February, a hijacking took place off the coast of Oman, and in January, pirates struck in the Bab El Mandeb strait between Yemen and Djibouti. Four of eight ships being held by Somali pirates belong to companies based in the UAE. Local companies also own two of the three ships that have been held the longest. The MV Iceberg 1 was captured in March 2010 and a crew member has died onboard, while the MV Orna was hijacked in November that year. The third ship, the MV Albedo, left Dubai before being seized in November 2010.
The chief negotiator visited last week from Pakistan to try to finalise the agreement for the MV Albedo, in which her captors reportedly dropped their ransom demand in exchange for expenses incurred in keeping it. Source: The National