The 2009-built, 45,989 dwt oil product tanker, Marine Express, carrying 22 Indian crew with a cargo of 13,800 tonnes of fuel went missing near the Benin port of Cotanou on 2 February. Hong Kong shipmanagement company Anglo Eastern and India’s minister of external affairs broke the news on Sunday.
A spokesman for Anglo Eastern said: “We regret that contact has been lost with the vessel, which was at the Cotonou anchorage in Benin, West Africa.”
“Authorities have been alerted and are responding. Our top priority is the safety of the crew, whose families have been contacted,” Anglo Eastern said on Twitter.
“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,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said.
The International Maritime Bureau had warned of a heightened risk profile in the Gulf of Guinea in its January 2018 report on piracy:
“In 2017, there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members in or around Nigerian waters. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon – including seven in the Gulf of Guinea,” the report said.
“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.
The shocking news of the disappearance of Marine Express comes at a time when incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery has hit a 22-year low.