KASARGOD: A tanker vessel with 22 Indians, including two Keralites, on board went missing off the coast of Benin, a West African country. It is suspected the vessel MT Marine Express, carrying 13,500 tonnes of gasoline, may have been hijacked for ransom or attacked by pirates for the gas.
One of the sailors on board is Sree Unni (25), son of Perilavallap Ashokan of Udma in Kasargod, said his relatives. They said Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, which owns the vessel, informed them that it lost contact with Marine Express on January 31. Another Malayalee from Kozhikode is also on board.
Awunga Shatsang Prem Ramyo, assistant attaché in High Commission of India at Abuja, told The New Indian Express that the Panama-registered vessel had anchored at Cotonou in Benin on January 31. "That was the last contact we had," he said. Later, at 2.36 am on February 1, satellite tracking found the ship missing from the anchorage.
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. Our top priority is the safety of the crew, whose families have been contacted. Updates TBA.— Anglo-Eastern (@angloeasterngrp) February 2, 2018
The cargo is valued at Rs 52 crore, according to a report in Mid-day.
Ramyo said India has sought the help of the navies of Nigeria and Benin to find the ship. "They are conducting search operations now," he said. Without getting in touch with the crew, the official said it was not possible to make a guess on what happened to the vessel.
The directorate general of shipping (DGS) and the Ministry of Shipping have also contacted their counterparts in Nigeria and Benin to help locate the missing vessel.
An alert message, according to Marinerdesk, reads "On 01 Feb 2018, owners lost contact with their tanker MT Marine Express loaded with gas oil. The last communication received from the tanker was on 01.02.2018 at 0528 UTC in position 06:16N-002:31E, Cotonou Anchorage, Benin. The fate of the crew members and the vessel are unknown."
(with inputs from Online Desk)