TALLINN - Somali pirates have released the crew of a ship that was hijacked in early November. One Estonian was among those released.
The operator of the ship, the Danish company Clipper Group, announced on Jan. 16 that pirates released the CEC Future and its crew of 13, five of whom are Estonian residents, the Estonian Foreign Ministry reported.
"According to the operator of the ship, the crew members are fine and feeling well. It is a great pleasure and relief to be able to inform the sailors' families about this," Foreign Minister Urmas Paet was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying.
The Foreign Ministry is prepared to offer whatever aid is necessary to get the Estonian crew members home, spokespeople said.
The ministry offered support and aid in communicating with and passing on information to the crew members' families. The Estonian embassy in Copenhagen has been in constant contact with the shipping company and followed all developments in the release operation for the crew of the hijacked ship.
After being released, the ship was escorted to Oman by Russian naval vessels. In Oman the crew will get off the ship and undergo health checks, AFP reported.
"The last pirates left the ship early Thursday morning. We had reached an agreement with the criminals late Monday," the head of Clipper Projects, Per Gullestrup, told AFP.
The ransom was dropped by parachute to the pirates on Wednesday and after counting the cash the pirates departed from the ship in a speedboat on Jan. 15.
Gullestrup did not disclose the amount of the ransom paid, but said the going rate to pirates in the Gulf of Aden was currently around 1 to 2 million dollars.
The CEC Future was hijacked on Nov. 7 in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia. The crew members included 11 Russians, a Georgian and an Estonian.
Gullestrup told AFP that paying ransoms to pirates was a difficult dilemma.
"Yes it definitely encourages them. But as long as you're not properly protected, this is a curse we have to live with," he said.
There had however been a "marked improvement" in the Gulf of Aden recently, he said, although "the situation is still not under control."
A surge of piracy since last August has drawn naval vessels from 14 countries to the Gulf of Aden to protect shipping, but attacks on ships and hostage takings have continued.