'Hijacked' merchant ship with 22 Indians released, all on board safe

All the crew members, who endured the over four-day ordeal, are safe and the ship has resumed further sailing.

'Hijacked' merchant ship with 22 Indians released, all on board safe
Photo: Facebook/Anglo Eastern's - Officers

NEW DELHI: The oil tanker with 22 Indians on board which went missing off Benin coast in the Gulf of Guinea near West Africa that was believed to have been hijacked by pirates has been released, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted on Tuesday.

"I am happy to inform that Merchant Ship Marine Express with 22 Indian nationals on board has been released. We thank (the) governments of Nigeria and Benin for their help and support," the Minister tweeted.

All the crew members, who endured the over four-day ordeal, are safe and the ship has resumed further sailing.

Swaraj had earlier tweeted that she has spoken to the Foreign Minister of Nigeria who had promised all help and assistance in locating the ship.

There is no information yet on whether a ransom was paid to secure the release of the vessel and the cargo.

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

The ship is owned by Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern Shipping Company, which in a Facebook post, had said the Panama-flagged vessel was the subject of a "pirate attack and seizure".

There had been a few incidents where the pirates had let off hijacked vessels and crew after siphoning-off the on board cargo without demanding any ransom.

In respect of this incident, DGS officials were in contact with the Indian mission in Nigeria, which was coordinating rescue efforts with local agencies.

The ship went missing less than a month after another vessel, 'MT Barret', disappeared off the coast of Benin in January, and was later confirmed to have been hijacked. The 22 crew members of MT Barret, most of whom were Indians, were reportedly released after a ransom was paid. 

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