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Somalia - piracy

Record ransom secures release of hijacked tanker

Article published on the 2010-01-18 Latest update 2010-01-18 15:45 TU

The Maran Centaurus.Photo: AFP

The Maran Centaurus.
Photo: AFP

Somali pirates released a Greek-registered oil tanker Monday after receiving a payment of seven million dollars, the biggest ransom ever paid to pirates. The money was airdropped onto the deck of the Maran Centaurus on Sunday.

The ship and its 28 crew members now have a naval escort to a suitable safe port, according to the ship's operator, Maran Tankers Management.

The Somali pirates that hijacked the vessel are reported to have received at least seven million dollars (4.8 million euros) dropped aboard the tanker from a small aircraft, plus another two million dollars (1.4 million euros) paid by cash transfer.

The payment reportedly triggered fighting within the hijackers' group, as the pirates argued over how the money would be divided.

Two people died, according to sources in the pirates' base of Harardhere in central Somalia.

Individuals would normally receive a cut of around 10,000 dollars for a ransom of one million, Somali expert Roger Middleton told RFI.

Analysis: Roger Middleton, Chatham House

18/01/2010 by Philip Turle

In this case, they're bound to be expecting a premium, but the bulk of the money will go to their bosses, Middleton predicts.

"Some [of the ransom] will be re-invested in faster engines, bigger guns and so on, and some of it will be used for pay-offs to political or military figures in the area, who need to be kept quiet and kept on side," he said, adding that bosses may be looking to make what they see as "more secure investments" outside Somalia, like in Kenya or Dubai.

The Maran Centaurus was captured on 29 November as it sailed from Saudi Arabia to the United States, carrying two million barrels of crude oil.

Prior to Sunday's payment, the largest ransom for a hijacked ship's release was the eight million dollars paid for Saudi supertanker the Sirius Star in January 2009.

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