Pirates free oil tanker with 22 Indian crew in Gulf of Guinea

Marine Express tanker

Marine Express tanker

Authorities are searching for a tanker carrying 13,500 tons of gasoline and 22 Indian nationals that went missing on Thursday off the coasts of West Africa in an area considered at high risk of pirate attacks.

According to Maritime Bulletin, the Marine Express went missing from the same area where another tanker, the MT Barrett, had been hijacked on January 9. Ship management company Anglo-Eastern said the tanker had been freed on Tuesday, and the crew were safe.

There have been a few incidents where pirates let off hijacked vessels and crew after siphoning the cargo on-board cargo without demanding a ransom.

India's Directorate General of Shipping was in contact with authorities in Nigeria and Benin Sunday in efforts to determine the whereabouts of the tanker and crew.

"India has sought the help of the navies of Nigeria and Benin to track down the missing vessel".

Nigerian authorities have alerted all boats to look out for the missing tanker ship and if sighted to report to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Anti-Piracy Reporting Centre immediately in London.

She also shared the number of a 24-hour helpline which can be used to inquire about the missing people: +234-9070343860. They are monitoring the situation closely, he said, the Hindu reported. "Our first priority is of course the safety of the 22 crew members on board, whose families have been contacted and informed of the situation".

It said a complete investigation would be carried out into the hijacking. But the Gulf of Guinea threat has increased. "All communication with the vessel has been lost, and right now we do not know if a ransom call has been made", the official said.

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