Somali pirates have released a cargo ship they captured last month, but one crew member was fatally shot when it was hijacked, the Dutch Defence Ministry said Tuesday.

The pirates released the MV Marathon Tuesday off the Somali coast in the Gulf of Aden.

Dutch marines were escorting the ship to a safe port, the ministry said in a statement. The statement did not say whether a ransom was paid, and the Dutch company that operates the ship, Amons & Co., declined comment.

One of the eight Ukrainian crew members died of a gunshot wound sustained when pirates seized the ship on May 7, said ministry spokeswoman Marloes Visser. The body of the crew member was still on board, he said.

Another crew member was injured and was in a stable condition.

"Our military police are investigating," Visser said.

No pirates were detained by the Dutch navy.

"The pirates are no longer on board," Visser said. "The ship was released and we picked it up to prevent it being hijacked again."

Captured in notorious gulf

The Dutch Antilles-flagged ship is being shepherded to port by Dutch navy frigate The Seven Provinces, which is part of a NATO flotilla patrolling the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to crack down on rampant piracy in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Pirates captured the ship on May 7 as it was travelling through the notorious gulf. The Marathon was loaded with coke, a type of fuel coal.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Christoph Prommersberger said he did not know whether a ransom had been paid but added that the Dutch government "does not pay ransom and does not negotiate with hostage-takers."

Despite international navy patrols, piracy has exploded in the Gulf of Aden and along Somalia's 3,025-kilometre coastline. Pirates are able to operate freely because Somalia has had no effective central government in nearly 20 years.

Seasonal monsoons have hampered pirate activity recently and the relative lull in piracy is expected to continue until at least the end of August, when the rough weather subsides, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau.   


  • The coastline of Somalia is 3,025 kilometres, not 13,000 kilometres as reported in an earlier version of this story.
    Oct 22, 2013 11:19 PM ET