The pirates today freed the ship, Marine Express, carrying all Indian crew of 22 members. The oil tanker had gone missing off the coast of Benin in north-west Africa in the beginning of February.

All the crew members, who endured the over four-day ordeal, are safe.

“The ship, ‘Marine Express’, has been released and is back under the command of the captain,” Director General of Shipping Malini Shankar told PTI here.

She said all 22 crew members are safe and the ship has resumed further sailing.

It was immediately not clear if 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 cargo of 13,500 tonnes of gasoline remains on board.

India remained in touch with the authorities in Nigeria and Benin for the information on the whereabouts of the oil tanker.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier informed that the Indian mission in Abuja was in constant touch with concerned officials as the situation was being monitored.

According to Marine Traffic records, the 180-m long ship was anchored at the position on 31 January. The next day, 1 February, satellite discovered the ship was missing from the anchorage point in the Gulf of Guinea.