Hijacked petroleum tanker with 22 Indian sailors safe, on its way back with crew
Crew members of MT Marine Express, anchored off Benin in West Africa that had gone missing five days ago, speak to families
Third Officer Maulik Garg
"I am safe; all the 22 crew members onboard are safe, do not worry... I will return to India in the next 10 to 15 days," Sreeunni Udayamangalam told his father Ashokan, a private gas agency owner in Kasargod's Udma, Kerala, last morning. Sreeunni is one of the crew of petroleum tanker MT Marine Express, which was anchored off Benin (Cotonu), West Africa, and had gone missing five days ago, allegedly falling prey to a pirate attack.
A relieved village
Ashokan told mid-day, "We are happy and thankful to the company (Anglo Eastern Ship Management) for ensuring safety of the crew." When asked if Sreeunni told him anything about what happened or where they were taken, Ashokan replied in the negative, saying it was a short conversation.
With villagers in Udma excited, a neighbour, who's an ex-Merchant Navy officer, said, "The company representative phoned Sreeunni's parents around 7 am and informed them about the release. After a few minutes, Sreeunni came on the line and spoke to Ashokan. The entire village is happy and expressed its gratitude to the Indian government and international maritime agencies, which assisted in the release of the vessel and crew."
Hijack to be probed
A statement issued on behalf of the company read, "Anglo-Eastern, managers of the oil products tanker "Marine Express" (IMO 9403322), which was the subject of a pirate attack and seizure in the Gulf of Guinea on February 1st, are pleased to report that the vessel is back under the command of the captain and crew. Full control of the vessel was resumed at approximately 04:00 Singapore time today. All crew members are reported to be safe and well, and the cargo of 13,500 tons of gasoline remains on board.
"A full investigation will be carried out into the hijacking… and Anglo-Eastern wishes to express its gratitude to the captain and crew of the "Marine Express" and their families for their courage and fortitude in dealing with this difficult situation... as well as to all of the authorities and agencies involved. All families of the crew members on board the "Marine Express" have been advised of the situation (sic)."
The International Maritime Bureau has withdrawn its alert issued on February 1. "The tanker and crew have been released and the vessel is sailing to a safe port. We thank all masters and seafarers for their valuable time and cooperation in looking out for this tanker," the Bureau said.
Some of the crew onboard
* Chief Officer Yatharth Ballav
* Captain Barreto
* Second Officer Sumit Kumar
* Third Engineer Satish
* Second Engineer Premji Baraiya
* Chief Engineer Kunal Roy
* Third Officer Maulik Garg
* Sreeunni Udayamangalam
* Pankajkumar Mishra
* Hari Karan Moorthy
* Vijay V Sidhan
* Hare Ram Yadav
* Kuldeep Singh
* Mahendra Akrekar
* Ahmed Rashid
* Hamid Khan
* Vijay Kumar Tandel
* Sukumar Mondal
* Rajendra Jangle
* Rejeesh Kolorath
Mumbai man who created hijack scare to be out on no-fly list