updated 10/3/2009 11:35:04 AM ET 2009-10-03T15:35:04

The Spanish government says a trawler hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean has been spotted by navy aircraft and the 36-man crew is safe.

Defense Ministry spokesman Constantino Mendez said Saturday that a Spanish frigate is due to arrive to shadow the tuna-fishing vessel later in the day.

The boat, the Alakrana, was boarded by Somali pirates early Friday when it was working waters 800 miles away from the nearest navy escort, the government said in a statement.

The government has set up a team headed by Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega alongside representatives of the defense, foreign, interior and environment ministries to work toward the tuna fishing vessel's liberation.

The Spanish government has begun to contact families of crew members and formed a crisis committee made up of members of the foreign affairs, defense, environment and other ministries.

Not the first time
It was the second attack in less than a month against the Alakrana. On Sept. 4, while operating in waters off the Seychelles, the vessel dodged an attack by taking evasive action, the owner said.

In April 2008, a Basque tuna boat was hijacked by pirates off Somalia's coast and held for six days until a reported $1.2 million ransom was paid. Another Spanish trawler escaped a hijacking attempt in September 2008.

Spanish ship owners have been clamoring for the government to post marines on fishing vessels, as France does, but the government has said it cannot do this under Spanish law.

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