In a largely unexpected move by Somali pirates, a double-release of hijacked tankers, Royal Grace and Smyrni, was announced. Both vessels are now heading for Salalah, Oman.
The ships and the 22 and 26 crew members of the respective vessels are underway and heading for the safe zone. An EU Spanish warship, M√©ndez N√∫nez,¬†came across the Royal Grace whilst patrolling the waters off Somalia. The¬†M√©ndez N√∫nez¬†medical team provide much-needed medical assistance¬†to the crew (See image below). News on the health of the crew of the Smyrni is yet to be released, and is likely to occur once they have reach safer waters, according to Indian government officials.¬†Authorities confirmed the releases, but did not provide any further details of the respective releases, or the sum of the ransoms paid.[UPDATE] The Suezmax tanker, Smyrni, has been confirmed as released as of Sunday 10 March at 2053 (CET)¬†with assistance from the Indian government, says EUNAVFOR. There was some confusion whether the Smyrni had been released at the same time as the Royal Grace as the vessel had sailed from the pirate anchorage, and the media sources in India claiming that the crew had been freed. Following discussion with the owners (Dynacom) representatives, the vessel was confirmed freed from pirate captivity.
Smyrni was hijacked by Somali pirates on May 10 2012 in position 15:58N – 061:03E, Arabian sea, 250 nm off the Omani coast, 440nm off Socotra island eastern tip, in the Arabian sea. Smyrni was transiting in the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) and reportedly, had no security team aboard. In addition, it was also reported that Smyrni was probably violently attacked the day before, suffering heavy RPG and AK 47 fire. The tanker was loaded with 135000 mt of Azerbaijan crude oil of approximately $130 million market value, destined for refineries in Balikpapan Indonesia, PT Pertamina Co. The crew of 26 is comprised of 14 Indians, 11 Filipinos and 1 Romanian.
Tanker Royal Grace was hijacked by pirates on March 2 2012 at around 1230 GMT in position 16:34N – 059:48E in the Arabian sea, around 180 nm off the Omani coast. Following the hijack, the vessel moved towards the Somali coast. The tanker was sailing from Dubai to an unknown destination when the hijack occurred, little was known about the cargo. The crew of 22 is comprised of 17 Indian, 1 Pakistani, 1 Bangladeshi and 3 Nigerian nationals.
In India, the¬†Shipping Minister GK Vasan made the announcement in Chennai, saying the government secured the release of the [Indian] sailors on board the two vessels due to coordinated efforts of the Ministries of Shipping, External Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, Director General Shipping and other agencies.
According to UKMTO reports, a further 7 vessels remain in pirates hands. MV Albedo and 16 crew (several released following ransom payment in July 2012), held since 26 November 2010 is now the longest held merchant vessel. Approximately 46 people from fishing vessels and dhows remain hostage, and a further 17 crew from other vessels remain captive.