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. No contact has been established with the vessel so far and there have been no reports of a ransom call, it said.
“The region has a history of piracy and it may be a case of suspected piracy. All communication with the vessel has been lost, and right now we do not know if a ransom call has been made,” an official of the Directorate General of Shipping told PTI.
The ship has gone mission less than a month after another vessel ‘MT Barret’ had gone missing off the coast of Benin in January and was later confirmed to have been hijacked. The crew of 22, most of whom were Indians, were reportedly released after the ransom was paid.
Earlier, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “A merchant vessel Marine Express (oil tanker), owned by Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern shipping company with 22 Indian nationals on board, is presumably missing off the coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea.”
The India mission in Nigeria was in touch with the authorities concerned and the situation was being constantly monitored, the MEA said.
“Our Mission in Abuja (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 set up by the Embassy for information on those missing is +234-9070343860,” Kumar said.
The DG shipping also said they are in touch with the Indian missions and “all our efforts are concentrated on getting the sailors rescued”.
The official said that Anglo-Eastern shipping management is very cooperative and have also opened up an emergency response centre for the crew members’ families.