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Indian sailors, oil tanker vanish in Cotonou

Indian sailors, oil tanker vanish in Cotonou

According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, the oil tanker, "Marine Express", went missing off the Benin coast in the Gulf of Guinea on February 1.

An oil tanker with 22 Indians on board has gone missing in the piracy-plagued waters off the Benin coast in the Gulf of Guinea near West Africa, the Directorate General of Shipping said today. A lookout has been issued for the missing vessel by Nigerian and Beninian security boats, with the London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Anti-Piracy Reporting Centre also monitoring the case closely.

A 24-hour helpline number has been set up by the Embassy for information on those missing.

Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, in a tweet, said that the safety of the crew was their top priority. It said, the last contact with the ship was established at 3:30 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) last Thursday.

A Panama-registered ship of MT Marine Express, which went missing off the coast of Nigeria almost three days back, is yet to be traced.

The Indian government has also confirmed that it is working with its contacts in Nigeria and Benin to find out what happened to the ship.

A DG shipping official said the fate of the crew members and the ship is not known. Authorities have been alerted and are responding. In January, another vessel MT Barret had gone missing off the coast of Benin and six days later crew, a lot of them Indians, were released after reportedly paying ransom. The Panama-registered vessel was carrying 13,500 tonnes of petrol worth $8.1 million.

The Gulf of Guinea has become an increasing target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even as piracy incidents fall worldwide, experts say. Pirates had hijacked the Barrett and held the crew members captive for six days while a "resolution process" was worked out. "Without getting in touch with the crew, the official said it was not possible to make a guess on what happened to the vessel".



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