ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - The Egyptian managers of the MV Suez cargo vessel that was hijacked by Somali pirates are willing to pay a ransom for their ship to ensure the safety of the vessel’s staff, a company official said on Tuesday.
Pirates hijacked the Panama-flagged ship with 23 crew on board early on Monday. The vessel is operated by the Red Sea Navigation Company, based in Egypt’s Port Said.
“We are expecting a call from the pirates in the next few hours,” Mohamed Abdel Meguid, the commercial director of the firm said.
“We are willing to pay a ransom, as long as it is reasonable to ensure the safety of our crew,” he added.
The 17,300 tonne ship carrying cement bags came under small arms fire while sailing in a recommended shipping lane. Its crew were from Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.
The Red Sea Navigation Company paid a $1.5 million ransom last year for another hijacked ship, Abdel Meguid said.
The London-headquartered International Maritime Bureau said its piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur logged a total of 196 pirate incidents globally from January to June 2010.
There were 31 successful hijackings in that period and 27 of those were off the coast of Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden.
Pirates from impoverished Somalia, which is battling an Islamist insurgency, have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.