Tokyo — Pirates freed a Japanese chemical tanker loaded with highly explosive benzene off the coast of Somalia today, six weeks after seizing the vessel and its crew, a U.S. Navy spokesman said.
All 22 crew members were unhurt, the Navy said, and the pirates were seen heading toward the Somali coast.
The Golden Nori was seized off the east coast of Somalia in late October carrying up to 40,000 tons of benzene. The U.S. Navy came to the aid of the vessel that month, with the guided missile destroyer USS Porter opening fire to destroy pirate skiffs tied to the ship, and the Navy monitoring the ship afterward.
"All the pirates are off the ship, and the first indication is that all crew members are unharmed," Lt. John Gay, a U.S. Navy spokesman told The Associated Press.
The 6,253-ton tanker was carrying crew from Myanmar, the Philippines and South Korea. One of the two South Korean crew members escaped and was rescued by a passing vessel in early November.