CaribWorldNews, LONDON, England, Weds. Sept. 16, 2009: St. Vincent and Grenadines flag bulk carrier, Irene EM, has been freed by Somali pirates.
The carrier and its 23 Filipino crew had been seized on April 13 in the Gulf of Aden by the pirates, who had demanded a US$2 million ransom. It was unclear whether ship`s Greek-based manager, Chian Spirit Maritime Enterprises, paid the ransom, paving the way for a release Tuesday.
The MV Irene, a 35,000-ton oil tanker owned by Bright Maritime Corp., a major Greek shipping firm but flagged in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was hijacked by Somali pirates on April 14, 2009 off the Gulf of Aden, a treacherous area for foreign vessels. NATO received a distress call from the St. Vincent and the Grenadines-flagged merchant about the MV Irene hijack incident on April 14. A Canadian warship sent a helicopter to investigate what was happening but it was too late. After MV Irene was hijacked, four more ships were captured in the Gulf of Aden that week.
The MV Irene had picked up its crew in Singapore and headed to China and then to Pakistan before going to the Middle East. Kenya was supposed to be the final stop of the ship`s six-month tour of duty.
Analysts estimate the Somali pirates earn as much as $150 million a year for hijacking foreign vessels.