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Missing Oil Tanker With 22 Indians Released: Tweets Sushma Swaraj

It is suspected that the tanker may have been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Benin in Africa.

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A day after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took cognisance of a missing oil tanker that went off the radar near the African coast, the Union minister tweeted to say that the ship, with 22 Indians on board, had been released.

She also thanked the assistance provided by the governments of Nigeria and Benin in locating the vessel.

The oil tanker went missing off the coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea. The merchant vessel Marine Express, owned by Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern shipping company, was anchored at Cotonou, Benin before it went missing from anchorage in the Gulf of Guinea.

The vessel was carrying 13,500 tonnes of petrol worth $8.1 million.

It is suspected that it may have been hijacked by pirates.

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Hindustan Times had quoted one of the relatives of a sailor Sree Unni, a resident of Kasargode in north Kerala, saying that the management which owns the ship informed them that they lost contact with the ship since 31 January.

However Raveesh Kumar, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, took to Twitter only on Sunday night to post the news of the missing vessel.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, on Monday, spoke with her Nigerian counterpart and sought assistance in tracing a missing oil tanker with 22 Indians on board.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama assured Swaraj of all help and assistance in locating the ship that went missing off the coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea, according to a tweet by Swaraj.

The "Marine Express" continues to be missing in the piracy-plagued waters near West Africa, an official of the Mumbai-based Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) told PTI

The DGS official said that all the communication equipment on board has been switched off.

"The region has a history of piracy and it may be a case of suspected piracy," another official from the DGS had said earlier.

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

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Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj had also taken to Twitter to break the news. She said all efforts are being made in coordination with the Nigerian and Benin naval authorities to trace the ship and even tweeted a helpline number that has been setup for rescue operations.

Anglo Eastern Ship Management said in a tweet that the crew’s safety was its top priority.

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This is the second vessel to go missing in three weeks off Benin. On 9 January, UK shipowner Union Maritime lost contact with the product tanker Barrett, which was at anchor off Cotonou. The Barrett had been taken by pirates, and the crew was kept in captivity for six days while a "resolution process" moved forward. The crew and the vessel were eventually released.

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Topics:  MEA Spokesperson   India Navy 

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