Oil tanker hijacking: Somali pirates 'release the ship'

Somali maritime forces and pirates on board a hijacked oil tanker with a Sri Lankan crew shot at each other today Sky News reported

Families of the eight Sri Lankan crew members held captive by Somali pirates on an oil tanker tearfully pleaded for the men to be released unharmed, while the pirates demanded a ransom. Pirates in the town confirmed they were expecting the ship.

Earlier in the day, there were clashes between naval forces and the pirates who started shooting at each other.

In the wake of the recent hijacking of tanker Aris 13 off Puntland, Somalia, International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim urged the shipping industry to be vigilant and apply diligently IMO guidance and best management practices to avert possible piracy attacks.

Officials said local elders negotiated the release of the Aris 13 and that as part of the negotiations, the pirates were allowed to leave the vessel and return to shore. "We pulled our forces back and so the pirates went away", said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime police force for Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

Aircraft from regional naval force EU Navfor were flying overhead to track the ship's progress and to try to determine what was happening, he said.

However, John Steed, a former British army officer who has spent years negotiating the release of piracy hostages in Somalia, told the AFP news agency they had been made an offer they could not refuse.

"If they do not get off, we shall fight to rescue the ship", he told Reuters.

It was headed to port in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

"The ship reported it was being followed by two skiffs yesterday afternoon".

The gunmen have told a local official that they are fishermen whose equipment was destroyed by illegal fishing vessels.

The vessel was carrying oil and was owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite conflicting reports over the flag it was sailing under, he added.

That year, Oceans Beyond Piracy estimated the global cost of piracy at about $7 billion.

Though anti-piracy measures ended attacks on commercial vessels, fishing boats have continued to face attacks.

Related news: