Vessel with 22 Indian sailors goes missing in West Africa

Feb 05, 2018, 01:05
Vessel with 22 Indian sailors goes missing in West Africa

An oil tanker carrying U.S. $8.1-million worth of gasoline and an all-Indian crew of 22 has gone missing off the coast of Africa, prompting fears that it has been hijacked by pirates.

Another official has said that the Ministry of Shipping has also contacted its counterparts in Nigeria and Benin to help locate the missing vessel.

The Indian High Commission in Abuja is constantly in touch with the Nigerian maritime authorities, reports claimed. Also, he shared the 24-hour helpline number +234-9070343860 which has been set up by the Embassy for the information of those missing sailors.

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Earlier, owners of the tanker, Anglo Eastern Univan Group, intimated the Directorate General of Shipping headquartered in Mumbai. It said, the last contact with the ship was established at 3:30 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) last Thursday.

MT Barret, went missing off the coast of Benin at the beginning of January.

On Friday, the company tweeted from its handle @Angloeasterngrp, "We regret that contact has been lost with the AE-managed MT Marine Express while at Cotonou, Benin". Authorities have been alerted and are responding.

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In a tweet, a spokesman for India's Foreign Ministry, Raveesh Kumar, said a search for the ship is underway. "Our top priority is the safety of the crew, whose families have been contacted". The Panama-registered vessel was carrying 13,500 tonnes of petrol worth $8.1 million. "Pirates are active in Gulf of Guinea". Given that pirates had hijacked a British vessel on January 9 and held the crew hostage, another hijack is not ruled out.

When asked why sailors risk their life on such high-risk routes, the official said, "The seafarers, or even the companies supplying manpower, have nearly zero control over where the merchant vessels will be deployed once they enter foreign waters". "Without getting in touch with the crew, the official said it was not possible to make a guess on what happened to the vessel".

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