Lehmann Timber 41-day hijacking comes to an end

THE crew of a Gibraltar-flagged ship hijacked by pirates off Somalia were praised for their "courage and fortitude" yesterday, as news emerged that their 41-day ordeal had come to an end.

Fears had mounted for the safety of the crew of the Lehmann Timber after they ran out of food and water a fortnight ago.

But the vessel has now been released after more than a month held off the coast of Somalia and the crew are unharmed.

Lloyd’s List understands that a ransom was paid but no details have been formally released.

“They were asking for ?1m ($1.8m) to start with but they got substantially less,” one source with close knowledge of the incident said, without revealing the exact sum.

Press reports in Germany cited Andrew Mwangura, of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program, as saying that a $750,000 ransom had been paid.

The money was delivered by another ship and was paid to 18 pirates, most armed with AK-47s and heavy machine guns, in Eyl, north of Mogadishu and close to where the ship had been held at anchor.

ECS EuroCargoServices, the vessel’s operator, would not comment on the operation to release the vessel.

“In order not to prejudice the safety of any seafarers that might fall victim to such attacks in future, the owners will not comment on any aspect of the operation undertaken to release the crew of the Lehmann Timber,” the company said in a statement.

The ship is now sailing to “a safe port”, where the crew will be brought ashore and given a thorough medical check-up.

There were 15 seafarers on board the ship when it was boarded by pirates on May 28 as it sailed through the Gulf of Aden en route to Suez. The crew included men from Russia, Estonia, Ukraine and Myanmar.

The 5,281 gt Lehmann Timber, a newbuilding on its maiden trip, was one of three merchant ships captured off Somalia within the space of a week at the end of May.

“We are delighted that the incident has been resolved and that the crew are safe and well,” said ECS EuroCargoServices manager Gustav Jakobsen, from the vessel’s operator.