A South Korean fishing vessel released from four months of captivity in Somalia met with a European Union warship in international waters and all crew members were confirmed safe, Seoul's foreign ministry said.
The 241-ton trawler Keummi 305 and its 43 crew members were freed Wednesday four months after the vessel was seized by Somali pirates on Oct. 9. The crew consisted of two Koreans, two Chinese and 39 Kenyans.
The vessel, also known as "Golden Wave No 305," has since traveled out of Somali waters. It had stayed in international waters due to fuel and other problems before meeting with a Finnish warship in the high seas at 8:16 a.m. (Korean time), officials said.
The EU warship headed toward the boat to provide escort and assistance at Seoul's request.
All crew members were confirmed safe, though five Kenyans showed light symptoms of colds and diarrhea, the ministry said.
The Finnish warship planned to provide the freed vessel with fuel and food before escorting it to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the ministry said in a statement. They are expected to reach the port around Feb. 16 because the fishing boat cannot travel faster, it said.
It was unclear why the pirates freed the vessel.
Officials said they do not believe a ransom was paid. A South Korean businessman in Kenya, who had participated in negotiations to win the release of the ship, also said that no ransom was paid.
A source in Nairobi said the pirates appear to have released the ship because they saw little chance of receiving a ransom and it was difficult for them to feed the hostages.
The release came about three weeks after South Korean naval commandos rescued the 11,500-ton freighter Samho Jewelry in a daring operation that killed eight pirates and captured five others. All 21 crew members were rescued alive, though the ship's caption was shot several times and seriously wounded.
The captured pirates were brought to South Korea for investigation and trial.
Under South Korean law, the pirates could be sentenced to at least five years in prison for hijacking the ship and life imprisonment or even death for shooting at the captain from a close distance.