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Gulf Of Guinea Pirates Release Oil Tanker Crew

Pirates have released the 22-strong crew of the Marine Express tanker, which they captured a few days earlier. The tanker’s owner, Anglo-Eastern, said in a statement, "All crew members are reported to be safe and well and the cargo remains on board." No details about ransom payments were disclosed by the Hong Kong-based company or by India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who tweeted the good news.

The Marine Express tanker, which carried 13,500 tons of gasoline, went missing on February 1, when Anglo-Eastern lost contact with the crew when the vessel was in Benin waters. It was unclear until yesterday whether the tanker had been hijacked, and if this was the case, if the hijackers had asked for ransom. The hijacking was the most plausible version, however, as the Marine Express disappeared close to the area in which an oil product tanker was hijacked last month.

Anglo-Eastern confirmed the hijacking in its statement: “Marine Express, which was the subject of a pirate attack and seizure in the Gulf of Guinea on February 1st, is now back under the command of the captain and crew.”

The tanker Barrett was also safely recovered from hijackers off the coast of Benin after six days. In that incident, the tanker owner said that the ship had been released “after a Gulf of Guinea piracy incident lasting six days.” A “resolution process” led to the release of the tanker.

Related: Most Big Banks Are Now Bullish On Oil

The threat to ships in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigerian waters has increased in recent years, while a decade ago the most dangerous waters were considered to be near Somalia off Africa’s eastern coast.

According to a report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) from January, 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported globally last year—the lowest number since 1995. The IMB, however, highlighted a persistent danger in the Gulf of Guinea where there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked, and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crewmembers in or around Nigerian waters.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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