TEHRAN, (Reuters) – An Iranian shipping firm is seeking to use diplomacy to secure the release of sailors from pirates who seized a bulk carrier this week, an Iranian executive said on Saturday.
The ship was hijacked on Thursday off the coast of Somalia in some of the world’s most dangerous waters. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Friday a fourth ship, a German cargo vessel, had been seized in just 48 hours. “We are trying to use diplomatic means to release sailors of the hijacked Iranian ship which was carrying 40,000 tons of iron ore from China to the Netherlands,” Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) Managing Director Mohammad-Hossein Dajmar said. His comments were carried by Iran’s Press TV website. He did not give details of those diplomatic efforts and said the pirates had not yet made demands for their release. Dajmar said the sailors were in good health. Press TV quoted the IMB as saying the Iranian ship had 29 crew.
Piracy is rife off Somalia, which has been mired in anarchy since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991. Maritime officials say at least 30 ships have been hijacked off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation so far this year.
Most of them brought ransoms of at least $10,000, and in some cases much more. A lot of that money is now in the hands of pirates in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.
Wealthy pirates have attained near-celebrity status in the area, buying expensive homes and cars and taking additional wives following this year’s sharp increase in attacks at sea.