Cotonou, Benin Republic: Pirates have freed the crew of the Panama-flag oil tanker, Marine Express, hijacked off Benin Coast on friday. All crew members, as well as the cargo, are “safe and well,” Anglo Eastern, the ship’s managing company said.
“We are delighted to report that the MT Marine Express, which was hijacked by pirates on Feb 1, is now back under the command of the captain & crew since ~04:00 SG time today. All crew members are reported to be safe & well & the cargo intact. We thank you all for your well wishes” Anglo Eastern said in a statement.
“A full investigation will take place into the hijack of the vessel and Anglo Eastern wishes to express its gratitude to the officers and crew of the Marine Express and their families for their courage and fortitude in dealing with this difficult situation over the past 6 days,” the statement said.
Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister for External Affairs, said the vessel had been “released” and thanked the governments of Nigeria and Benin for their support in the search.
“I am happy to inform that Merchant Ship Marine Express with 22 Indian nationals on board has been released. We thank Governments of Nigeria and Benin for their help and support.” She said.
EARLIER: Oil Tanker Ship, MT Marine Express, With 22 Indian Sailors Missing Off Benin Coast – Oil tanker vessel, MT Marine Express – a Panama-flag ship – carrying approximately 13,500 tonnes of gasoline, an approximate value of cargo worth $8.1 million and a crew of 22 Indians has been lost at sea off the coast of the West African country, Benin. The vessel, MT Marine Express, was on anchorage at 6.30 pm on January 31, at Cotonou, Benin. The next day, at 2.36 am, satellite tracking showed the ship missing from the anchorage in the Gulf of Guinea.
“A merchant vessel Marine Express (oil tanker), owned by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern shipping company with 22 Indian nationals onboard, is presumably missing off the coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea,” India MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted on Saturday.
The vessel, loaded with gas oil, is owned by the Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern shipping company, who has reached out to the directorate general of shipping in Mumbai in order to reach out to their counterparts in Nigeria and Berlin to help locate the merchant ship.
MEA added that the Indian Embassy in Nigeria is in touch with the authorities in Benin and Nigeria for their help in locating the ship and is constantly monitoring the situation. A 24 hour helpline number (+234-9070343860) has been set up by the Embassy for information on those missing.
Nigerian authorities have reportedly alerted all boats to be on the lookout for the ship and to report any sighting to the International Maritime Bureau’s Anti-Piracy Reporting Centre immediately in London.
It is suspected that the MT Marine Express, carrying 13,500 tonnes of gasoline may have been hijacked by the pirates.
Vessel MARINE EXPRESS (IMO: 9403322, MMSI: 354715000) is an oil products tanker built in 2009 and currently sailing under the flag of Panama. MARINE EXPRESS has 180m length overall and beam of 33m. Her gross tonnage is 28054 tons.
Less than a month ago, on January 9, another vessel, MT Barret, had gone missing off the coast of Benin. Two days after its disappearance, it was confirmed that it been hijacked. The ship had a crew of 22, most of whom were Indians. They were released for ransom six days later.