To date, 17 ships and about 409 sailors have been held captive by Somali pirates in different locations around the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov told the Cabinet on June 25 2010, the private Bulgarian television channel bTV reported.
Of that number, a Bulgarian flagged tanker Panega with 15 sailors on board is still held captive. The sailors' condition is reported to be good, although one Bulgarian sailor was shot.
According to the latest statistics, about 2000 Bulgarian mariners sail under foreign-flagged ships, Mladenov said. Many of them are threatened because they sail in troubled waters around the Gulf of Aden, bTV reported.
Several international military mission are ongoing in the region, aimed at curtailing piracy in the high seas, and about 50 pirate groups have been "neutralised", Mladenov said.
The Bulgarian Government's stance on the matter is that the resolution of any such crisis is the sole responsibility of the ship's owners and the company that charters the vessel. "We can provide assistance and support, but ultimately, action has to be taken by them," Mladenov said.