Small Emirati tanker, crew nabbed by pirates freed

July 28, 2011 - 5:59 AM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Seventeen crew members of a small Emirati oil tanker captured by pirates this month off the coast of Somalia have been freed unharmed along with the ship, the vessel's manager said Thursday.

The MV Jubba XX was reported captured on July 16 as it made its way from Umm al-Quwain in the United Arab Emirates to the port of Berbera in the breakaway northern Somali province of Somaliland.

Omar al-Khair, general manager of Emirates International Shipping, the ship's manager, told The Associated Press the tanker was freed late Wednesday following negotiations involving Somali tribal elders and government officials in Puntland, a semiautonomous northern region neighboring Somaliland.

"They were very helpful and very cooperative," he said of the Puntland officials. "This is good news, really."

No ransom was paid, though pirates did steal money, clothes and other belongings from the crew, al-Khair said. The brigands also made off with the vessel's satellite phones and other communications equipment, leaving the crew with just a regular Somali mobile phone, he said.

An official working for ship owner Jubba General Trading Co., Sayyad Alawi, confirmed the tanker had been freed.

The UAE-flagged Jubba XX was carrying less than 4,000 tons of refined fuel when it was hijacked off the coast of Mukalla, Yemen. Al-Khair said its crew included four Somalis, along with sailors from Sri Lanka, India, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Sudan, Bangladesh.

It is expected to dock later Thursday in the Somali port of Bosasso before continuing its journey to Berbera, al-Khair said.

Piracy has grown in recent years off the coast of war-ravaged Somalia, which is now being gripped by a devastating drought. The Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning central government for more than 20 years.