Efforts On to Trace Missing Ship with 22 Indians on Board, Says Indian Govt

Marine Express, carrying nearly 13,500 tonnes of gasoline, has been missing off the Coast of Benin in West Africa.


Efforts are being made to trace the missing ship Marine Express, that has 22 Indians on board, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Feb. 4. The ship has been missing off the Coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea, and no communication has been made with the vessel since Feb.1.

“Merchant Ship Marine Express with 22 Indian nationals is missing off the Coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea. We are making all out efforts in coordination with Nigerian and Benin naval authorities to trace the missing ship. We have set up a Helpline number (+234)9070343860,” Swaraj tweeted.

The ship, owned by Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern Ship Management, was carrying nearly 13,500 tonnes of gasoline on board, the International Maritime Bureau said, the BBC reported. The company has initiated an emergency response center to assist the families of the missing crew members. The Benin navy is looking for the ship.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that the Indian mission in Abuja, Nigeria, is constantly communicating with Nigeria and Benin for assistance to track the ship. They are monitoring the situation closely, he said, the Hindu reported.

The region is known for incidents involving hijacking of ships and holding the crew for ransom. Although the hostages are exchanged unharmed in return for ransom, pirates are on a lookout for oil tankers.

The last contact with the vessel was made while it was at anchorage at Cotonou, a port city on the south coast of Benin in West Africa, according to tracking data, reported Sky News. Other reports also suggest that armed guards on board the missing vessel were asked to disembark before it was allowed to anchor, Mid-Day reported.

“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,” said an official of the Mumbai-based Directorate-General of Shipping, the Hindu report added. No reports of a ransom call have emerged until now.

The Anglo-Eastern Ship Management also took to the social media to confirm that the ship is missing.

This is the second such incident in less than a month. In January this year, MT Barrett, a vessel owned by London-based tanker owner company Union Maritime, had gone missing off the coast of Benin. It was later confirmed that the ship was hijacked. The crew had 22 members, most of them Indians. They were said to have been released when a ransom was paid.

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