A ship carrying a 22 Indian crew and 13,500 tons of gasoline is missing in the Gulf of Guinea, after contact was lost in Benin, according to the company which owns the vessel and India’s minister of external affairs.

The Marine Express tanker was last seen in Benin’s waters on Friday afternoon before contact with the vessel, which is managed by Hong Kong-based Anglo-Eastern, was lost, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The reason for the loss in communication remains unknown and a search with support from the Nigerian and Beninese authorities is currently underway.

Cargo vessels in the Gulf of Guinea have increasingly become targets for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, even as piracy incidents fall worldwide. 

A decade ago piracy was a big issue off East Africa, particularly in Somalia’s waters, but combined regional and international policing efforts brought the number of piracy issues there down.

However, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has reported a number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea in January.

There were ten incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members in or around Nigerian waters, the IMB said.

Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon, seven of which were in the Gulf of Guinea.

- African News Agency  (ANA)