India in touch with Nigeria, Benin as fears of ship hijack loom large

India has said it’s in touch with Nigeria and Benin, and also set up a 24-hour helpline in Abuja in the wake of fears of hijack of an Indian ship with 22 of its nationals on board.

The ship has been missing in sea off West Africa coast for over 60 hours.

“A merchant vessel Marine Express (oil tanker), owned by Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern shipping company with 22 Indian nationals onboard, is presumably missing off the coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted Saturday night.

“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. A 24-hour helpline number set up by the Embassy,” he added.

Another official has said that the Ministry of Shipping has also contacted its counterparts in Nigeria and Benin to help locate the missing vessel. “But nothing is known at this point of time,” he added.

The Panama-registered vessel tanker vessel, owned by Mumbai-based Anglo Eastern shipping company, has been carrying gasoline worth nearly 8 million U.S. dollars when it lost contact some three days back.

Anglo Eastern Ship Management has said that the crew’s safety is its top priority.

“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,” the company tweeted.

The region near Benin, especially the Gulf of Guinea, is known to be pirate-infested, and several ships have been targeted. In January, another ship went missing off the coast of Benin and two days later, it was confirmed to have been hijacked.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News

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