Hijacked oil tanker rescued after four days, no casualties

Sushma Swaraj

An oil tanker has been rescued which went missing with 22 Indians on board off the coast of Benin in West Africa on 1 February, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday.

All the 22 crew members have been released safe by pirates after four days, the ship has resumed sailing, official said.

"I am happy to inform that Merchant Ship Marine Express with 22 Indian nationals on board has been released," Swaraj tweeted.

The External Affair Minister has also thanked government of Nigeria and Benin for their support in the matter.

Swaraj had spoken to her Nigerian counterpart on Monday to seek assistance in tracing the missing oil tanker.

The Indian mission in Abuja was in touch with Nigeria and Benin for help in locating the ship.

"The ship, Marine Express, has been released and is back under the command of the captain," Director General of Shipping Malini Shankar told PTI in Mumbai.

It was not immediately clear if any ransom was paid to secure the release of the vessel and the cargo.

The Marine Express was anchored in Cotonou in the Gulf of Guinea in Benin when it was taken over by pirates on 1 February. All communication systems on the vessel were switched off by pirates before making it sail.

In a Facebook post, ship manning agent Anglo Eastern said the Panama-flagged vessel was the victim of "pirate attack and seizure" and confirmed its safe release.

(With agency inputs)

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