Dutch Company Negotiates With Somali Pirates for Release of Hijacked Ship's Crew

A Dutch shipping company negotiated with Somali pirates Tuesday, seeking the release of nine crew members on a freighter that was hijacked in the latest attack on merchant shipping off the coast of Somalia.

Lars Walder, spokesman for the ship's owner Reider Shipping BV, said his company is in contact with the hijackers and "as far as we know none of the crew has been injured or worse."

The crew were four Russians and five Filipinos, he said.

The ship, the MV Amiya Scan, is chartered by a Danish company, Scan-Trans Shipping, and sails under a Panamanian flag of convenience. It departed Kenya on May 19 on its way to Romania and was hijacked Sunday in the Gulf of Aden.

Its cargo was a decommissioned oil platform.

Walder said his company, based in the far northern town of Winschoten, Netherlands, would not comment on the pirates' demands out of concern for the safety of the crew.

The Amiya Scan was the sixth ship hijacked by Somali pirates in two months, said the Commercial Crimes Services of the International Maritime Bureau. Since Jan. 1, 24 ships have been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden, compared with 44 for all of last year.

Globally, 157 hostages have been taken by pirates and released unharmed this year before the Amiya Scan hijacking, said Pottengal Mukundan, director of crimes services.

Neither the company nor the agency would discuss details of the seizure of the Amiya Scan or the negotiations.

Typically, vessels are seized at the entrance to the gulf, "an area rich in targets because it is the normal route for vessels heading into the Suez Canal," said Mukundan.

The ships are taken within Somalia's 12-mile territorial limit and anchored off coastal areas controlled by militias.

In a rare case of naval intervention, French commandos in April freed hostages on a French tourist yacht seized last month off the Somali coast, and then chased the pirates on land and arrested them.

The United States has been leading international patrols to combat piracy along Somalia's 1,880-mile coast. The U.S. and France are drafting a U.N. resolution that would allow countries to chase and arrest pirates.