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Somali pirates in Harardhere have confirmed to Somalia Report that the Italian-flagged oil tanker MV Savina Caylyn has been released for $11.5 million ransom, according to pirate sources. The 22 crew members, composed of 17 Indians and five Italians, had spent 11 months in captivity.
The ransom was delivered in two instalments, with the first payment of $8.5 million dropped on board the vessel by helicopter early Wednesday, and a second package of $3 million arriving at 12:30pm (0930 GMT).
At 2:00pm (1100 GMT), the pirates finally released the vessel.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
The atypical two-part ransom drop was a response to the pirates' previous refusals to release Indian hostages, even after being paid a ransom. The trend began on April 15th, when pirates holding the MT Asphalt Venture declined to release the eight Indian members of the crew, hoping to use them as pawns in a prisoner exchange for pirates captured by the Indian navy. Since then, pirates have repeatedly refused to release Indian nationals, and have even gone so far as to declare their intention to "hunt" Indian seafarers.
The two-part drop was designed to avert another bad faith maneuverer on the part of the pirates.
"It was a tactic by the ship's owners to make sure that the Indians were released," explained a source in the pirate gang. "After they dropped the first $8.5 million by aircraft, they requested that we release the 17 Indians in small boats, and we agreed. After they had left, they dropped the other $3 million and we released the vessel and the five Italians." The captain, officers and crew members of the Italian-flagged MT Savina Caylyn are safe and they have assumed command of the vessel, travelling with a military escort.
Families of the five Italians and 17 Indians aboard the vessel have been informed of their release, according to diplomatic sources.
The release of MT Savina Caylyn brings to a total of 252 seafarers remaining in the hands of pirates, including four Filipinos and two Danes taken from their general cargo ship Leopard, 5 South Koreans as the remaining crew members of MT Gemini, and 7 Indian ex-crew members of MT Asphalt Venture. The South Koreans were not released by the pirates as retaliation for South Korean military attacks upon, and imprisonment of, pirates.
The most recent successful hijacking was of the MSV Krishna Sadan, along with her 14 crew members, comprised of 12 Indians and 2 Somali nationals.
The Italian-flagged MV Savina Caylyn had been hijacked on February 8th by pirates in skiffs with rocket-propelled grenades while she was 500 miles west of India. The pirate gang, which was based in the Harardheere area, was headed by Ilyaas, a well known pirate commander from the Murarsade sub-clan (a branch of the Hawiye). For more on the hijacking in February, read our spotlight article on the vessel here.
The year 2011 is said to be the deadliest year in recent times, with 230 piracy incidents reported off Somalia, with 27 successfully hijackings, 464 hostages taken and 15 hostages lost their lives in the hands of pirates.