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Merchant Marine Vessel Missing in Gulf of Guinea, Search Underway - FM

Merchant Marine Vessel Missing in Gulf of Guinea, Search Underway - FM

The International Maritime Bureau said the Benin navy was searching for the Marine Express, which is carrying 13,500 tonnes of gasoline.

B R Shekar, chief surveyor who holds additional charge as director general of shipping, Mumbai said: "The owners of the ship lost contact with their tanker, MT Marine Express, on February 1 when it was in Cotonou anchorage at Benin".

This is the second ship to go missing in the last one month.

There has been no contact with the Panama-registered Marine Express since Thursday. "The first priority is the safety of the 22 crew members on board whose families have been contacted and informed of the situation", the statement read. The families are in a helpless position, as their only source of information at the moment is the company. "All communication with the vessel has been lost, and right now we do not know if a ransom call has been made", an official of the Directorate General of Shipping told PTI.

Nigeria's Coast Guard is also on the lookout for the ship. "We are making all out efforts in coordination with Nigerian and Benin naval authorities to trace the missing ship", Sushma Swaraj said in a tweet. He added that it was likely that the vessel was targeted by pirates for its cargo. Two days after its disappearance, it was confirmed that it been hijacked. They were released for ransom six days later.

Piracy-related issues were a decade ago focused off the east African coast, particularly Somalia's unpoliced waters.

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".

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