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. 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. 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.
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
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.
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. The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen
goods, security, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion. By mid-November 2013, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea had
launched around 100 attacks during the year.