Tanker with 22 crew goes missing in pirate-infested African waters
05 February 2018
A Hong-Kong managed tanker with a crew of 22 and a cargo of 13,500 tonnes of petrol is missing in the Gulf of Guinea after contact was lost off Benin on February 2, owners Anglo-Eastern said in a statement. The cause of the loss of communication with the vessel, the Marine Express, was unknown and a search was under way with help from Nigerian and Beninese authorities, the company said.
India’s ministry of external affairs said that 22 Indian nationals were on board and spokesman Raveesh Kumar 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.”
Anglo-Eastern said its top priority was the safety of the crew, whose families had been contacted.
The ship’s cargo is worth about US$8 million.
The Gulf of Guinea has become an increasing target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even as piracy incidents fall worldwide, according to experts quoted by Reuters.
Ships in the area were the target of a series of piracy-related incidents last year, according to a January report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which highlighted the waters off West Africa as an area of growing concern.
There were 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members in or around Nigerian waters, the IMB said. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon, seven of which were in the Gulf of Guinea.
On January 10, a company lost communication with its tanker anchored in Cotonou, according to the IMB. After a six-day search, the tanker and crew were found safely in Lagos after the tanker owner negotiated with the hijackers, the IMB said.