Pirate Victims Finance More Attacks With $100 Million in Ransom
By Robin Stringer, Gregory Viscusi and Alaric Nightingale
Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) — A few years ago, Somali pirates menacing Africa’s east coast sometimes demanded tens of thousands of dollars for the safe return of a hijacked vessel and crew. Now they often seek $1 million or more. The reason: Ship owners keep paying.
“If you do pay, you are continuing to encourage future attacks,” said Pat Adamson, an official at MTI Network, a London-based crisis-management company that has advised the owners of most of the hijacked ships. Unless there is a cash payment, “your seafarers will lose their lives.”
A fresh example of owners acceding to ransom demands emerged on Nov. 22, when Mare Maritime Co. SA said it had paid a sum it declined to disclose to free its Greek chemical tanker, the MV Genius, and 19 crew members almost two months after Somali pirates seized them in the Gulf of Aden.
Last week, pirates demanded a record $25 million for the Saudi Arabia-owned Sirius Star seized off the coast on Nov. 15 — $1 million for each crew member. The ship also holds more than 2 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, probably covered by insurance. Negotiations on that ransom are “still ongoing,” said Andrew Mwangura, head of the East Africa Seafarers Association, said by phone from Mombasa.
Hijackings by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden region have leaped this year, with more than 581 crew members taken hostage from January to September, compared with 172 in all of 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau.