Pirates Release German Ship for $2.75 Million
Warships Escort 'Hansa Stavanger' to Mombasa
Their four-month ordeal in the hands of Somali pirates is over, and the crew of the German freighter Hansa Stavanger are overjoyed at being released after a $2.75 million ransom was paid. But it's a defeat for the German government, which abandoned two attempts to retake the ship by force.
Somali pirates released the German container ship Hansa Stavanger on Monday after the owners dropped
$2.75 million (€1.91 million) in cash from a small plane, ending months of ransom negotiations ever since the ship was seized on April 4.
The pirates had boarded the vessel in the Indian Ocean and forced the captain to sail to Harardhere, a notorious pirate stronghold on Somalia's coast.
The ship has a crew of 24, including five Germans. It embarked for the Kenyan port of Mombasa on Tuesday accompanied by two German warships. It isn't expected to arrive until Friday because it can only make a speed of five knots -- after its long mooring, it is being slowed down by shells stuck to its hull.
A German navy doctor has examined the crew and found them to be exhausted but well. Frank Leonhardt, the manager of the shipping line Leonhardt und Blumberg, said: "I've phoned the crew and they are as well as could be expected under the circumstances." The Stavanger will continue with a replacement crew once it arrives in Mombasa.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hoped "the released crew members and their relatives will recover as quickly as possible from their ordeal in recent weeks."
But despite the relief at the men's release, the ransom payment is a defeat for the German government. Its crisis team had been determined not to pay. But two attempts to
free the ship by force were abandoned. At one point the Germans had dispatched their elite GSG-9 unit to Somalia, but the mission was halted when allied US forces deemed it too risky.
The hijacking has triggered a major row in Berlin about whether Germany is well enough prepared to deal with hijackings. There had been a
lack of coordinationl among various German government departments involved, and changes have been made since then to improve the way they work together.
In the end, events unfolded as they usually have in recent pirate hijackings. The ransom was paid and the pirates made off without being pursued.
When the relief has dissipated, though, there is likely to be fresh debate about whether there's any point to the European Union's
Atalanta"navy mission in the Gulf of Aden if warships aren't even permitted to hunt down escaping pirates.