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Held hostage by pirates

The crew of the Svitzer Korsakov, a Danish-owned 115-foot arctic tugboat, found themselves in hot water off the coast of Somalia last Friday when they were hijacked by pirates, according to Irish newspaper, The Independent.

The vessel is crewed by two Englishmen and four Russians, who are reportedly being held hostage by the pirates, who are demanding a ransom. The shipping company for the tugboat was notified by the Russia government about the incident and they are in negotiations to free the crew, according to the report.

The tugboat was bound for the island of Sakhalin, a semi-autonomous regrion between Russia and Japan. Designed for cutting through the ice, Svitzer Korsakov was built and launched in St. Petersburg in December 2007 to serve oil terminals in Sakhalin, according to the Vladivostok Times. The tug assists the vessels in mooring, clear away ice for the large-capacity vessels at three knots minimum, and provides safe export of oil and gas around the clock.

The International Maritime Bureau has advised merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles away from the coast of Somalia, since pirates have seized more than two dozen ships last year alone.

- Elizabeth Ellis