Somali pirates have freed the Hong Kong-managed chemical tanker Fairchem Bogey, almost five months after the ship was hijacked in a daring attack in the outer port area of Salalah in Oman.
The release of the ship, which is managed by Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, was confirmed by Nato, which has naval forces patrolling in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, and the Hong Kong Shipowners Association.
Sources said a ransom of US$8 million had been paid to free the ship and the 21 Indian crew.
The 25,390 dwt tanker was the first Hong Kong ship to be seized by Somali pirates since armed gangs started hijacking vessels off the coast of Somalia in 2007.
Peter Cremers, the chief executive of Anglo-Eastern and a former chairman of the shipowners association, could not be contacted.
Arthur Bowring, the managing director of the association, said the Fairchem Bogey was now heading for a safe port where the crew would be replaced and sent home. The ship was hijacked on August 20 and released on Friday.
The seizure of the vessel just six nautical miles off Salalah while waiting to load cargo raised concern in shipping circles because it was thought to mark a change in tactics by the pirates who boarded the tanker from a livestock carrier in fog.
The Oman coast guard gave chase after the alarm was raised but were warned off by the pirates, although they continued to shadow the ship. The coast guard disrupted several subsequent attempts to attack vessels in the same area.
The tanker, owned by Fairfield Chemical Carriers of the United States, was sailing to Garacad off the coast of Somalia.
Since initial contact was established between Somali negotiators and a team representing the ship's owners and insurers soon after the ship was taken, there had been a media blackout with no details about the progress of talks before the ship was released.
The Nato shipping centre, which provides a communications link between Nato naval forces and merchant shipping, said last week pirates were continuing to operate off the Oman coast, southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, although their activities were being disrupted by naval forces.
The shipping centre said: 'Pirates continue their attempts to hijack any vessels of opportunity; a reminder that piracy can occur at any time.'
The ransom amount, in US dollars, said to have been paid for the release of the 21 Indian sailors of Fairchem Bogey