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Pirates free 22 Indian sea men after holding them hostage for five days in West African coast

Pirates who hijacked the Panamanian flagged vessel Marine Express off the Benin coast in West Africa have set free the oil tanker with 22 Indians on board after holding them hostage for five days. No information is immediately available whether  ransom money was paid to secure their release

The Panamanian-flagged vessel, called "Marine Express", was earlier reported missing off the Benin coast in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. The vessel is owned by Ocean Transit Carrier SA, a Japanese company. The 22 sailors were appointed on the ship by Anglo-Eastern Shipping, a Hong Kong firm.

The ship was also carrying 13,500 tons of gasoline. Two days ago Indian external affairs minister Sushma  Swaraj got in touch with her Nigerian counterpart and impressed on him the need to free the ship since it had on board 22 Indian sea men

The crew members are reported to be safe and well and the cargo remains on board," said Anglo-Eastern.

Gulf of Guinea has become an increasing target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even as piracy incidents fall worldwide, experts say.


The oil tanker Marine Express went missing less than a month after another vessel, "MT Barret", disappeared off the coast of Benin in January, and was later confirmed to have been hijacked. The 22 crew of "MT Barret", most of whom, were Indians, were reportedly released after a ransom was paid.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea affects a number of countries in West Africa as well as the wider international community. By 2011, it had become an issue of global concern.[1][2] Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are often part of heavily armed criminal enterprises, who employ violent methods to steal oil cargo.

In 2012, the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program reported that the number of vessels attacks by West African pirates had reached a world high, with 966 seafarers attacked during the year.[4] According to the Control Risks Group, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had by mid-November 2013 maintained a steady level of around 100 attempted hijackings in the year, a close second behind Southeast Asia.[5]

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria has evolved over the first decade of the century. For some time, smaller ships shuttling employees and materials belonging to the oil companies with any involvement in oil exploration had been at risk in Nigeria. Over time, pirates became more aggressive and better armed

As of 2014, pirate attacks in West Africa mainly occur in territorial waters, terminals and harbors rather than in the high seas. International navies and coastguards patrolling the seas cannot enter territorial waters of any country even if cases of sea piracy are reported. This incident pattern has hindered intervention by international naval forces.

Pirates in the region operate a well-funded criminal industry, which includes established supply networks. They are often part of heavily armed and sophisticated criminal enterprises, who increasingly use mother ships to launch their attacks. The local pirates' overall aim is to steal oil cargo. As such, they do not attach much importance to holding crew members and non-oil cargo and vessels for ransom. Additionally, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are especially noted for their violent modus operandi, which frequently involves the kidnapping, torture and shooting of crewmen. The increasingly violent method used by these groups is believed to be part of a conscious "business model" adopted by them, in which violence and intimidation plays a major role.

Between 2010, and 2011 as many as 64 incidents were reported to the UN International Maritime Organization. However, many events go unreported. Piracy acts interfere with the legitimate trading interests of the affected countries that include Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The trade of Benin's major port, the Port of Cotonou, was reported in 2012 to have dropped by 70 percent.[2] The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion.[1] By mid-November 2013, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea had launched around 100 attacks during the year.

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