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Two vessels seized by Somali pirates released

By the CNN Wire Staff
The Singapore-flagged MV Golden Blessing was confirmed released from under pirate control on 6 November 2010.
The Singapore-flagged MV Golden Blessing was confirmed released from under pirate control on 6 November 2010.
  • Two vessels released by Somali pirates
  • Ransoms in the millions of dollars were apparently paid
  • Countries have warned that pirates are venturing farther from home waters

(CNN) -- Somali pirates have released two vessels they've held for several months, apparently after ransoms were paid, officials and news agencies reported Saturday.

On June 28, pirates hijacked the MV Golden Blessing, with 19 Chinese sailors onboard. They took control of the vessel, which flew under the Singapore flag, about 60 nautical miles off the northern coast of Somalia.

The 14,445-ton tanker, carrying a load of glycol ethylene, was released Saturday, according to the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR). The vessel had been en route from Saudi Arabia to India. EUNAVFOR provided no other details.

There were conflicting numbers on the paid ransom, but Andrew Mwangura, programs coordinator of the Kenya-based Seafarers Assistance Programme, said it was less than $7 million.

China's transport agency, however, said on its website that the Golden Blessing had been "rescued."

Meanwhile, a South Korean oil tanker and its 24 crew members seized April 4 also were released Saturday, according to Yonhap, the South Korean state news agency.

The pirates said they had been paid $9.5 million, Mwangura said.

Somali pirates captured the Samho Dream about 600 nautical miles (690 miles, 1,111 km) north of the Somali coast -- 300 nautical miles (345 miles, 556 km) outside the area in which EUNAVFOR operates.

The Combined Maritime Forces -- a cooperative effort by several countries to patrol international waters -- has warned that pirates in the Somali Basin and Gulf of Aden are venturing further from their home waters, "revealing their desperation to find easier commercial targets."

The 300,000-ton Samho Dream was seized in the Indian Ocean while en route to the United States from Iraq. The ship was carrying five South Korean and 19 Philippine crew members along with about $170 million worth of oil.

The freed vessel is now en route to Louisiana, Mwangura said.