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25 Jun, 2008 10:27

Somali pirates release one crew but for another the wait goes on

Pirates in Somalia have released a Dutch cargo vessel seized a month ago. According to the owners of the Amiya Scan, the crew made up of four Russians and five Filipinos are unharmed. The ship is now sailing towards the Suez Canal.

It’s not reported if a ransom was paid so as not to jeopardise negotiations regarding other ships and crews being held by pirates in the region.

The cargo ship carrying the flag of Antigua & Barbuda and belonging to Dutch company Reider Shipping BV, was hijacked by pirates in the neutral waters of the Gulf of Aden on May 25. It was on route from Kenya to Romania carrying a drilling platform.

Meanwhile, the situation for sailors on board another hijacked vessel, the German-owned Lehmann Timber remains tense. The ship with a fifteen-man crew made up of sailors from Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Myanmar and under the command of a Russian captain was captured in the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast in late May.

An expert and one of the negotiators, Mike Voytenko, spoke on the phone with the captain of the vessel, Valentin Bartashev. He said the crew were suffering from a severe lack of food and fresh water despite the fact that pirates get provisions from shore regularly, including food and plenty of drugs.

One of the crew is already so weak he can’t move without the help of others, according to the captain.

Meanwhile, the ship owner contacted the vessel on Wednesday morning and said he wouldn’t be able to deliver the ransom of $US 750,000 until at least July 12 at the earliest. According to Bartashev this means further suffering and maybe deaths.

The Lehmann Timber crew have announced that if the ship owner doesn’t deliver the ransom as soon as possible, the crew or their relatives will sue the owner in the European Court.

Some of the pirates want to leave the vessel taking the crew as hostages, while maintaining their ransom demands. They’re also threatening to sink the vessel.