Hong Kong-managed tanker released after being hijacked by pirates, company reveals
The vessel – Marine Express – was handed back in the early hours of Tuesday, shipping firm Anglo-Eastern said, adding that all crew members were safe and no cargo was stolen
A Hong Kong-managed oil tanker carrying 22 Indian crew and a cargo of 13,500 tonnes of petrol was hijacked by pirates off the coast of West Africa last week, the shipping company revealed after the vessel was released.
The tanker – Marine Express – was released in the early hours of Tuesday, said Hong Kong-based Anglo-Eastern, adding that all crew members were safe and no cargo was stolen.
“We are delighted to report that the oil products tanker ‘Marine Express’, which was the subject of a pirate attack and seizure in the Gulf of Guinea on February 1, is now back under the command of the captain and crew,” the company said on its Facebook page at about 10.30am on Tuesday.
“Full control of the vessel was resumed at approximately 04:00 Singapore time today.”
It said a complete investigation would be carried out into the hijacking.
“We wish to express our gratitude to the captain and crew of the vessel and their families for their courage and fortitude in dealing with this difficult situation, as well as to all of the authorities and agencies involved,” Anglo-Eastern said.
The company said all the families of crew members have been advised of the situation. “We thank everyone for their concern and well-wishes over these past few days,” it said.
But the company did not say whether any ransom payment was made for the release of the tanker, crew and cargo.
News about the release came a day after Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to the Nigerian foreign minister regarding the missing tanker.
On Tuesday afternoon, Swaraj said on Twitter that the tanker “with 22 Indian nationals on board has been released” and she thanked the governments of Nigeria and Benin for their help and support.
The tanker went missing in the Gulf of Guinea after contact was lost at Cotonou anchorage in Benin last Thursday.
The Gulf of Guinea has increasingly become a target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even as such incidents fall worldwide, experts say.
Piracy-related issues were a decade ago focused off the East African coast, particularly Somalia’s unpoliced waters. But the Gulf of Guinea threat had increased.
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, which highlighted the waters off West Africa as an area of growing concern.