The crew taken from the yacht Le Ponant by Somali pirates at the weekend are being treated 9/4/08

All 32 crew members on board the 288 foot luxury French superyacht – captured by Somali pirates at the weekend – are alive and well and being treated, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday, citing the country’s embassy in France.

TheLe Ponantowned by one of France’s largest ship operators CMA-CGM was seized en route to the Mediterranean. It was not carrying any passengers, but had a crew of 22 French sailors as well as 10 Ukrainian and Korean crew members.

“According to information from the Embassy, the ship seized by pirates is still anchored off the south coast of Somali. The first communication with the pirates confirmed that the crew are alive, in good health and are being well treated,” the ministry said in a statement.

The French authorities, who have made contact with the pirates, said they were prepared to pay a ransom. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has been quoted as saying: “The case is likely to be lengthy. It is important that our contact is fruitful and we must do everything to avoid bloodshed.”

A French frigate and a team of French commandos are reported to have been sent to the area to reinforce the group negotiating the hostages’ release.