Owners of Hijacked Golden Nori in Ransom Talks

Apparently, the owners of the hijacked Panamanian-flagged, Japanese chemical tanker, the Golden Nori, are in the midst of ransom talks with the pirates who have held the vessel for over three weeks. Though these talks are being held in secret, it has been rumored that the amount may be more than $1 million, possibly even as high as the $1.5 demanded for the Danica White in August of this year. While it seems there is hope for the release of the 23-member crew, it has been reported that one crewmember escaped from the ship and swam for two days to safety in South Korea.

On October 28, the Golden Nori, which was carrying benzene from Singapore to Israel, was attacked while sailing through the Gulf of Aden, eight nautical miles off the Somali coast. The crew sent out a distress call which the U.S. responded to, sinking the pirates' two skiffs tied to the boat (see Navy photo here). Since then, however, the vessel has remained under pirate control but the U.S. Navy has been continuously tracking it.

Piracy has been increasing in Somalia since the military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overturned in 1991 by warlords. Though attacks decreased during the second half of 2006 when Islamists controlled most of southern Somalia, they have been increasing since the Islamists were expelled in January of this year. This year alone, there have been at least thirteen reported hijackings near Somalia -- almost three times the five hijackings reported in the same area for all of 2006.

The waters off the Somali Coast are part of the area that is patrolled by the Combined Task Force 150, a task force under the Combined Maritime Forces Coalition. Twenty countries belong to the Coalition, the main goal of which is to conduct maritime security operations (MSO).

For the latest pirate attack news, please visit the IMB's Web site here.

**Photo: 071028-N-0000X-185 INDIAN OCEAN (Oct. 28, 2007) - A pirate skiff burns after being hit by several rounds from a 25mm gun aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). The skiff belonged to a group of pirates that boarded Panamanian-flagged cargo ship MV Golden Nori. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED)