An oil tanker with 22 Indians on board has gone missing off the coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea and the government is in touch with authorities in Nigeria and Benin to trace it, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said yesterday. No contact has been established with the vessel so far and there have been no reports of a ransom call, an official of the Mumbai-based Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) told PTI. The official said that the Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern Ship Management, which owns the vessel, is very cooperative and has also opened an emergency response centre for the crew members’ families. “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 no.(+234)9070343860,” Swaraj tweeted.
The Indian mission in Abuja is in touch with Nigeria and Benin for help in locating the oil tanker, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. He said the situation was being constantly monitored. The DGS official 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.”
The ship went missing 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. A crew of 22, most of whom were Indians, were reportedly released after a ransom was paid. The DGS official also said his department was in touch with the Indian missions and “all our efforts are concentrated on getting the sailors rescued”.