The father of one of the ship's officers wrote to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Horst Köhler, as well as to Norbert Röttgen, leader of the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, and to Hans-Christian Ströbele of the opposition Green party. So far only Röttgen has replied, after three weeks. The father found the politician's letter polite but ineffectual.
The government's crisis specialists gradually grew impatient as well. A BKA delegation went to Hamburg to talk with Frank Leonhardt, the head of the shipping company, but Leonhardt didn't want to give in. He had made an offer and didn't want to negotiate further.
Leonhardt was chairman of the Association of German Shipping Companies until November 2008. Was he now trying to avoid providing further incentive for pirates to capture German ships? The shipping line told SPIEGEL it was required by the BKA and the Foreign Ministry not to give out any information until the hostages had been freed, and wanted to abide by that agreement.
Then on May 15, another ship hoisted its anchor and left the Somali coast. It was the freighter Patriot, belonging to the Hamburg-based shipping company Johann M. K. Blumenthal. Pirates had captured that ship three weeks after the "Hansa Stavanger."
The Hansa Stavanger captain's wife wrote a desperate letter to Leonhardt blaming him for her husband's continued captivity. Leonhardt had his personnel manager answer. The ultimate ambition, the manager wrote in a May 25 letter, is the release of the crew. Negotiations with the pirates are difficult, he added, because they don't stick to their agreements and continually make new demands.
It looked like a settlement was coming at last at the beginning of June. The money was supposed to be handed over on June 12. The crew had reached the end of its tether, many had come down with fever, and some of the pirates clearly had tuberculosis. The ship's pharmacy was empty and the weather was growing worse. The monsoon had arrived, with high waves threatening the anchored vessel.
Two days before the planned handover of the money, a clearly high-ranking pirate leader came on board. He wanted more money, especially for the hostages who were allegedly being watched and cared for on land. And he didn't want to negotiate.
The week before last, another airplane flew over Harardhere Bay, bringing the ransom for the Belgian freighter Pompei, which had been held by Somali pirates for more than two months.
Last Friday, the captain send a desperate e-mail to Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying he and his crew couldn't believe their lives and suffering would be worth less than money. "We are all desperate, and some of us are ill as well," he wrote. "We are asking you politely, but resolutely, to help us and persuade our company to end this insane game."
Negotiations have been underway again since Friday afternoon.