Tanker Crew

The crew of the hijacked Marine Express oil tanker has retaken control of the ship. (Anglo-Eastern Twitter photo)

HONG KONG — The crew of a missing Indian oil tanker regained control of the ship from pirates who had hijacked it off Benin's coast, the vessel's management company said Feb. 6.

The Marine Express tanker was "the subject of a pirate attack and seizure in the Gulf of Guinea" Feb. 1, Anglo-Eastern of Hong Kong said on social media.

The ship lost contact until its captain and crew took back control Feb. 5 evening Benin time, which was early Feb. 6 in Hong Kong, the company said.

All 22 Indian crew members were safe and its cargo of 13,500 tonnes (15,120 tons) of gasoline remained on board.

"A complete investigation will be carried out into the hijacking," the company said. It praised the crew and their families "for their courage and fortitude in dealing with this difficult situation," but provided few other details.

The Indian government confirmed Feb. 4 that the ship, owned by a Mumbai company, was missing and it had sought help from the Benin and Nigerian navies to find it.

Ship hijackings and kidnappings of crew are common in the region, with hostages often released unharmed after a ransom is paid. Bandits usually target oil tankers and sell the crude.

Concerns about piracy off Africa's coasts have largely shifted to the Gulf of Guinea following international efforts in recent years to reduce the threat of off Somalia's coast.

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