Pirates have released an oil tanker carrying 22 Indian crew members four days after it was reported missing off the Coast of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea, near West Africa.

The merchant ship, Marine Express, was also loaded with 13,500t of gasoline when it originally lost communication with ground staff on 1 February.

The vessel was reportedly anchored in Cotonou in the Gulf of Guinea in Benin when it was hijacked by pirates.

Marine Express personnel were forced to switch off all the tanker’s onboard communication systems before commencing the journey from Cotonou, reported Press Trust of India.

"Marine Express personnel were forced to switch off all the tanker’s onboard communication systems before commencing the journey from Cotonou."

The Panama-registered vessel is managed by Hong Kong-based ship management company Anglo-Eastern.

Media sources quoted Anglo-Eastern saying in a statement: “All crew members are reported to be safe and well and the cargo remains on-board.”

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However, the company has not mentioned whether any ransom was paid for the release of the vessel and its cargo.

The governments of India, Nigeria and Benin were involved in the retrieval of Marine Express, while the Benin Navy also conducted search operations to find the vessel’s whereabouts.

The vessel has now resumed sailing following the hijacking incident.

Anglo-Eastern conducts operations worldwide and has more than 25 office locations in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas.

The company manages a wide range of vessels such as offshore and diving support vessels, remotely operated vessels (ROVs) and semi-submersible heavy-lift ships.

It also provides crew management and technical services to the global offshore industry.