Somali pirates released the Orna, a Panama-flag bulk carrier, after almost two years of captivity, but later reneged on their agreement to free the entire 19-member crew.
Reports said ship operator Sirago Ship Management could not secure release of six sailors, including five Syrians and one Sri Lankan, following a tussle between two blocs of pirates over the amount of ransom they received (reportedly more than $600,000).
"We had negotiated for the release of 18 Syrians, one Sri Lankan and the vessel," the United Arab Emirates-based company said. "Sometimes you have to make a decision to take whatever you have, so we took the 13 crewmembers and the ship. There is a problem between the pirates and the ‘piracy investors.' "
The 27,915-deadweight-ton Orna was seized by pirates some 400 nautical miles north off the Seychelles Dec. 20, 2010, while on passage from Durban, South Africa, to Okha, India, with a cargo of coal.
Reports also said another round of negotiations was under way for the release of the remaining six men.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, African pirates as of the end of September were estimated to be holding captive 167 sailors on 11 ships.