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The Chinese bulk carrier, held by Somali sea-shifta for more than two months, was freed early on Monday, the Chinese foreign ministry confirmed. Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said the crew was rescued early on Monday morning. 

According to the reporting of the Chinese Marine Search and Rescue Center, the 25 Chinese crew members and the "De Xin Hai" vessel were safely rescued through combined efforts at 3 a.m. on December 28, 2009, Beijing Time, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Marine protection observers working with ECOTERRA Intl. reported that the last pirate left the vessel short after nightfall last night.

Sea-jacked on Oct. 19, 2009, the Chinese vessel with 25 Chinese sailors was en route from South Africa to carry about 76,000 tonnes of coal when it was hijacked in the Indian Ocean 550 nautical miles northeast of the Seychelles and 700 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia.

The bulker is owned by the state-owned Qingdao Ocean Shipping Co. Negotiations for the release were rather task-oriented with the Chinese Shipowners' Association secretary general Zhang Zuyue confirming that the Chinese side was paying a ransom.
The Shanghai Daily said, citing a pirate source, that the vessel was released after a helicopter dropped a $4 million ransom payment on the deck of the ship on Sunday. Officials in Beijing did not confirm the amount of the ransom. Other sources put the amount at $3.5 mio.

The vessel and crew was held slightly more than 3nm south of Hobyo at the central Somali coast, when an aircraft delivered the ransom on Monday.

The hijack was the first of a Chinese ship since China posted three warships to join the international anti-piracy force in the Gulf of Aden.

The De Xin Hia bulk carrier is now under Chinese naval escort after the rescue operation, the foreign ministry said.

"After the medical checkup of crew members and resupply of provisions, the fleet will escort the ship and the crew to a safe sea area, and then ensure their safe return to China as soon as possible," Xinhua said, citing Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.
China's growing presence on global shipping lanes is obvious and brought warnings that Beijing could use military force against the pirates based in Somalia.

But Chinese warships, like those from other countries, provide protection mainly in the narrow and dangerous Gulf of Aden, not the much larger Indian Ocean.

It was the second seizure of a coal ship, and Indian coal traders warned at the time that this might encourage gangs to seize other coal ships. Experts say a higher risk of pirate attacks could disrupt an expected increase in the volume of South African coal heading to India.

Patrols by warships from many nations with different agendas only seem to have forced the pirates to hunt further from shore and escalated the violence of the attacks, while the international community has done nothing to improve the situation of abhorrent poverty ashore in Somalia and even not delivered the pledges made at a donor conference last year.

Pirate attacks in the area doubled in 2009 over a year before, despite the deployment of the European Union Naval Force in December 2008, the first international force specifically to counter Somali pirates.
© Ecoterra -

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