India Abroad

Oil Tanker With 22 Indians Goes Missing Off West African Coast : MEA

| February 4 , 2018 , 11:36 IST

An oil tanker with 22 Indian crew members reportedly went missing off the coast of Benin, a West African country 3 days ago, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Sunday. It is suspected that the MT Marine Express carrying 13,500 tonnes of gasoline may have been hijacked by pirates.

The Panama-flag merchant ship was last seen on February 1 when it was in Cotonou anchorage at Benin.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar in a tweet said, "A merchant vessel Marine Express (oil tanker), owned by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern shipping company with 22 Indian nationals onboard, is presumably missing off the coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea."

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Raveesh Kumar informed that the Indian authorities based in Nigeria have sought their help in locating the missing oil tanker.

He 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."

In another tweet, he notified that Embassy also generated a helpline number to locate the missing crew. "A 24-hour helpline number set up by the Embassy for information on those missing is +234-9070343860," he tweeted.

Worried relatives of crew members have sought the help of Ministry of Shipping which later said they were in touch with their counterparts in Nigeria and other African counties to help locate the ship.

Relative of one of the crew member said “We fear the worst. We are in touch with the MEA also,”

The owners of the tanker have urged the Directorate General of Shipping in Mumbai to get in touch with their counterparts in Nigeria and Benin to carry out search operations for the merchant ship.

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Nigerian authorities have alerted all boats to look out for the missing tanker ship and if sighted to report to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Anti-Piracy Reporting Centre immediately in London.

This is the second time in the last one month that a ship has gone missing. In January, another vessel MT Barret had gone missing off the coast of Benin and six days later the crew, most of them Indians, were released after reportedly paying a ransom.