Pirate Hijacking Resolutions at a Glance

Most hijackings by Somali pirates have ended with the payment of a ransom, but not all have ended that way:



The pirates are thought to have received up to $80 million in ransom payments last year, but it is difficult to verify this figure because most companies do not say how much they have paid to secure the release of their ships. The most prominent cases of ships being released for ransom are:

— Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, which was hijacked in November and released in January. The pirates at the time reportedly received $3 million even though they initially had asked for $25 million. However, five of the Somali pirates drowned with their share of the ransom money after their small boat capsized during a storm.

— Ukrainian freighter MV Faina, which was hijacked in September and released in February. The pirates holding the ship said they received $3.2 million in ransom.



The French government has sent in their forces to free hostages:

— In September 2008, France dispatched elite commandos on a night operation to free two French hostages from their captured sailboat. The 30-some soldiers, wearing night-vision goggles, boarded the ship and in about 10 minutes killed one pirate, captured six others and pulled the French Polynesian couple to safety.

— The first such rescue by French troops was in April 2008. The helicopter-borne French troops swooped in on Somali pirates, capturing six of them, after the hijackers released dozens of hostages who had been held on a yacht.



One of the most controversial cases so far is the Indian navy's sinking of a suspected pirate vessel in November. India said at the time it had come under attack from a pirate "mother ship," ordinarily a vessel pirates have captured to use to travel long distances that their speedboats cannot. The International Maritime Bureau and the Thai owner later reported that the vessel was a fishing trawler with civilian sailors on board. The trawler had been hijacked by pirates hours before it was sunk by the Indian navy.



The most rare thing to happen is for pirates to release a vessel without being forced to do so or without receiving a ransom. In the past two years there is only one such case that has been recorded:

— In December, Somali pirates released a Yemeni cargo ship and its eight crew members without receiving any ransom. They had held the ship for weeks. Officials at the time said the pirates released the vessel after local clan elders and officials persuaded them to do so.