MT Marine Express, a tanker with 22 Indians on board, has reportedly gone missing off the coast of Benin in West Africa. The ship has been missing for the last 48 hours, triggering fears of a hijacking.
It is carrying 13,500 tonnes of gasoline worth approximately $8.1 million. The ship is owned by Anglo-Eastern Ship Management.
“We regret that contact has been lost with the AE-managed MT Marine Express while at Cotonou, Benin. Last contact was at 03:30 UTC, Feb 1. Authorities have been alerted and are responding. Our top priority is the safety of the crew, whose families have been contacted. Updates TBA,” Anglo-Eastern wrote in a tweet.
Fears are that the MT Marine Express, a Panama registered vessel, has been hijacked for ransom or attacked for the gas.
According to Marine Traffic records, the last status of the 180-m long ship shows Cotonou, where it was anchored. The status was recorded on 31 January. The next day, 1 February, satellite discovered the ship was missing from the anchorage point in the Gulf of Guinea.
According to The New Indian Express, India has requested Nigeria and Benin to find the ship. They are currently conducting search operations.
This is the second disappearance of a ship in the same region in the last two months. On January 9, MT Barret, with 22 Indians on board, had gone missing off the coast of Benin. It was confirmed on January 11 that pirates had hijacked the ship. The crew was released for ransom six days later.