The South Korean cargo ship freed Friday from Somali pirates in a dramatic rescue operation is heading to a port in Oman under escort of a warship, and its Korean crew members are expected to return home late next week, company officials said Saturday.
South Korean Navy commandos rescued all 21 crew members of the 11,500-ton chemical carrier Samho Jewelry seized by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea last week. The ship's Korean captain was shot in the stomach, but the wound is not life-threatening, while the others were rescued unharmed.
Eight of the 13 pirates were shot dead and five others were caught alive.
On Saturday, the chemical carrier was heading toward the port of Salalah in Oman under the protection of the South Korean destroyer Choi Young, and is expected to reach the Omani port early next week, according to officials at Samho Shipping headquartered in Busan.
"I heard that the ship was traveling at a speed of about seven knots per hour," an official said. "I think it will arrive at Oman's Salalah port early next week."
The ship's captain, identified as Seok Hae-kyun, had been flown to Oman Friday for treatment. Seok underwent surgery for a bullet wound Friday, officials at Seoul's foreign ministry said.
Upon their arrival in Oman, the other crew members are expected to receive medical checkups before heading to South Korea, company officials said. The crew included eight South Koreans, 11 from Myanmar and two others from Indonesia.
"The Korean crew members will likely return home around Jan. 29," a company official said.
The company plans to send other crew members to check if the ship can operate normally. Officials said that they believe the ship would be able to resume its original journey to Sri Lanka after some repair work.
The successful rescue operation dominated headlines in South Korea, with newspapers and broadcasters praising the daring operation, code-named "Dawn of Gulf of Aden," saying that it will help discourage pirates from seizing Korean ships.
The operation marked the ninth case in the world since 2008 in which military force was used to rescue crew members of ships seized by Somali pirates. There were four such operations in 2010, and two each in 2008 and 2009. (Yonhap News)