New Delhi (Sputnik) — A Panama flag merchant tanker with 22 Indian crew members on board that went missing on February 1 in the Gulf of Guinea was released on early Tuesday morning. Sushma Swaraj, India's Minister of External Affairs confirmed the news via Twitter.
I am happy to inform that Merchant Ship Marine Express with 22 Indian nationals on board has been released.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) February 6, 2018
The owners of Anglo-Eastern — the company to which the oil tanker belonged said that the tanker "Marine Express" was subject to a pirate attack and seizure but is now back under the command of the captain and crew.
"Full control of the vessel was resumed at approximately 4:00 a.m. Singapore time today. All crew members are reported to be safe and the cargo of 13,500 tons of gasoline remains on board," the company said in a statement.
Just In: Pirates free oil tanker with 22 Indian sailors in Gulf of Guinea. Marine Express tanker went missing in the Gulf of Guinea after contact was lost in Benin on Friday. pic.twitter.com/E2n3R7Ejtw— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) February 6, 2018
The company promised a complete investigation into the incident. The product tanker was carrying gasoline worth $8.1 million when it was allegedly attacked by pirates in Benin in West Africa. Earlier in January this year, another vessel, MT Barrett, with an Indian crew on board was hijacked from the same region and was released only after a ransom was paid.
According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), global piracy and robbery at sea have dipped to their lowest point in over two decades, thanks to the combined patrolling of global maritime forces mainly from India and China. Data suggests that the pirate attacks on merchant vessels which in 2011 were 237 dipped down to just nine off the Somali coast last year. But, the west coast of Africa has witnessed the exact opposite. The data for 2017 suggests that piracy and robbery witnessed a massive surge on the west coast of Africa. In 2017, 33 incidents of piracy and robbery at sea, successful or otherwise, were reported within 12 nautical miles of the Nigerian coastline.