New Delhi, Feb 07, 2018 : An oil tanker which had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of West Africa with 22 Indian sailors has been released, the ship’s owners announced. The two seamen hail from Kasargod district.
India thanked the governments of Benin and Nigeria for their assistance in ending the nearly week-long crisis.
“We are delighted to report that the MT Marine Express which was hijacked by pirates on February 1 is now back under the command of the captain and crew. All crew members are reported to be safe and well and the cargo intact,” the Hong Kong-headquartered Anglo-Eastern group said in a social media message on Tuesday.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in a social media message thanked the authorities in Benin and Nigeria for the prompt support to secure the ship.
The Hindu had reported that the ship had gone missing after its last location at Cotonou harbour in Benin, West Africa. All communications had ended with the vessel after it left Cotonou, a major regional port. India had swung into action in coordination with Nigeria and Benin to locate the ship. The Ango-Eastern group is one of the major Asian shipping companies with representation in almost all the major ports of India.
“We are making all-out efforts in coordination with Nigerian and Benin naval authorities to trace the missing ship,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said, announcing the international effort to locate the missing crew members. Ms. Swaraj had urged her Nigerian counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama to coordinate efforts to free the ship from the pirates.
The diplomatic mission of India in Nigeria had coordinated efforts during the last few days to secure the release of the vessel. The Gulf of Guinea is a major zone for maritime commerce but remains vulnerable to sea-pirate attacks. Though the region has witnessed several incidents in the past, this was the biggest incident involving a large number of Indian crew members. At the time of the hijack, the ship was carrying 13,500 tonnes of petroleum products.