Report: Somali pirates release Japanese ship

Ukrainian ship Faina arrives in the port of Mombasa, Kenya after its release.
Somali pirates have released a Panamanian-flagged, Japanese-owned vessel that was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden in November, according to a non-governmental group that monitors piracy.

The ship, named the MT Chemstar Venus, was released late Thursday, according to Ecoterra International. The 18 Filipino and five South Korean crew members were reportedly unharmed. The International Maritime Board, a group that also monitors piracy, told CNN that the company had not confirmed the release of the ship, but said shipping companies sometimes wait a few days before going public to ensure the safety of the crew. The ship was hijacked on November 15. It was unclear whether the pirates were paid a ransom to release the ship. This incident comes a week after Somali pirates released a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks, ammunition and crew after receiving a ransom of $3.2 million. On Wednesday night, a Ukrainian plane flew into Mombasa with a fresh crew for Faina that was intended to take over the vessel and then deliver it back to its home port, they reported.

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The plane also brought doctors, representatives of arms export companies, the ship owner, as well as a group of Ukraininan journalists, according to Interfax. The 20 freed crew members will be flown to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Friday, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian president said. President Viktor Yushchenko has said he will go to the airport to greet the Faina’s crew.