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The Somali pirates that earlier this week hijacked a tanker shipping fuel from Djibouti to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, have released the vessel and the crew without receiving any ransom, media report. Though unusual, the happy ending comes after intense negotiations between the hijackers, clan elders from the semi-autonomous Puntland region where the crew was held, and the Somali marine force, and even gunfire on Thursday.
According to Reuters, a pirate said the release of the eight-strong Sri Lankan crew without insisting on a ransom came after the hijackers learned that the vessel was commissioned by Somali businessmen.
Prior to 2012, when the hijackings stopped thanks to the joint efforts of shippers and several navy fleets, Somali pirates made millions from ransoming, keeping some crew members in captivity after the ransom was paid, sometimes for years. They are still holding several Iranians, Reuters notes.
Somali piracy became a serious problem for the shipping industry in the early 2000s, turning into a major crisis by 2010, when the pirates were hijacking a few vessels every month – a total of 49 in 2010 and 31 in 2011 – and demanding multi-million-dollar ransoms to release them and their crews.
Also in 2011, pirate attacks on vessels reached a staggering 237, according to data from the International Maritime Bureau. Hijacking attacks resulted in hundreds of hostages being held for ransom.
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Since the Horn of Africa is part of a major maritime route, there was never a shortage of targets, and piracy bloomed until 2012 when the combined efforts of international navy fleets and the shipping companies, which strengthened the defense of their vessels by employing armed guards, seriously dampened hijacking activities.
The area where the pirates operate is also home to one of the eight biggest maritime oil routs, the Bab el-Mandeb channel, through which 3.8 million barrels of crude pass daily.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.