The vessel was hijacked on August 21 in the Gulf of Aden where five other foreign vessels have been seized since July. More than 50 Filipino sailors remain in the hands of Somali pirates.

The Philippines, one of the largest suppliers of crew members in the international shipping industry, has been hit hard by an escalation in the number of attacks by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

Faina standoff continues

Meanwhile, negotiations were reportedly under way to secure the release the MW Faina, a Ukranian ship carrying tanks and other heavy weapons, which has 20 crew members on board.

"The standoff continues though there are reports that a deal up to $8mdollars is in the offerring, but there hasn't been any independent confirmation of these reports," Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Djibouti, said.

"Given the fact that ransom money has usually been paid from different capitals in the world, it doesn't look like the money could be delivered to the pirates themselves," he said.

The pirates, who seized the vessel in late September, had reportedly originally asked for $20m.

Sugule Ali, a spokesman for the pirates, told The Associated Press news agency: "We are open for give-and-take negotiations".

He said that the Faina's crew were holding up well despite their ordeal.

"Their chef still prepares their food for them," Ali said. "They are healthy and have no worries. But of course their only worry is when they will gain their freedom. Their feeling is typically that of hostages - no more, no less."

Will Geddes, a London-based security specialist, told Al Jazeera that in some cases there was no choice but to pay a ransom.

"When you look at Somalia and the frequence of piracy attacks that have been taking place, we're up to about 61 this year alone and a large majority of those will involve a ransom of payment being demanded, certainly for the return of the cargo or for the crew," he said.

"We're talking about a very concentrated, well armed group."

US warships

Six US warships have surrounded the MW Faina amid fears that its weapons, including 33 battle tanks, might fall into the hands of armed groups in Somalia.

The MV Faina was seized in late September[AFP]
Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, a spokesman from the US 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said the navy was in regular contact with the crew.

He said the navy did not know when the standoff might end, but said they would make sure the pirates do not take the heavy weapons ashore.

Within weeks, the US warships are expected to be joined by a seven ship Nato force, according to James Appathura, Nato's chief spokesman.

"There will soon be Nato military vessels off the coast of Somalia, deterring piracy and escorting food ships," he said.

Several European Union countries said last week that they would launch an anti-piracy patrol, and Russia announced it would co-operate on fighting tackling the pirates.

Somalia's transitional government, which is under pressure from near-daily attacks by armed opposition groups, has given foreign powers the freedom to use force against the pirates.