14 ships, 260 crew held by pirates

The International Maritime Bureau says 260 crew on 14 hijacked ships are being held off the coast of Somalia, not including the U.S.-flagged ship seized Wednesday – the Maersk Alabama and its crew of 20 U.S. nationals.

The other ships include:

– Bulk carrier African Sanderling and its 21 Filipino crewmen, seized in October.

– Turkish tanker Karagol, seized in November carrying 4,500 tons of chemicals and 14 Turkish personnel.

– Liberian-flagged MV Biscaglia, seized late November with 30 crew on board.

– Greek-owned MV Saldanha and 22 crew members, seized in February.

– Panama-registered, Greek-owned Nipayia, with 18 crewmen, seized in March.

– St.-Vincent flagged, Greek-owned cargo ship Titan, with 24 crewmen, seized in March.

– Bahamian-registered, Norwegian-owned Bow Asir, with 27 crewmen, also seized in March.


Organizations tracking global piracy trends said Somalia recorded the highest number of attacks in recent years in 2008. The most prominent of the hijackings were:

– Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, which was hijacked in November and released in January. The pirates at the time reportedly received $3 million to release the tanker even though they initially had asked for $25 million. However, five of the Somali pirates drowned with their share of the ransom money after their small boat capsized during a storm.

– Ukrainian freighter MV Faina, which was hijacked in September with 20 crew members. It was released in February after pirates holding the ship said they received $3.2 million in ransom. The ransom was paid after protracted negotiations, which saw even Ukrainian relatives of the crew members fundraise among themselves at one point because they felt their government was not doing enough.

There are fewer than 200 U.S.-flagged vessels in international waters, said Larry Howard, chair of the Global Business and Transportation Department at SUNY Maritime College in New York.