Maltese-flagged chemical tanker Cotton with an all-Indian crew, which was hijacked by pirates in Gabonese waters in West-Central Africa early last week, has been released.

“I have received information that the vessel has been released and all the 24 crew members are safe. The families of the crew have been informed of the happy development. The crew have also contacted their families from the ship. We are most happy that the men are safe and sound,” Captain Vaibhav Dalvi, Director (Crewing Operations) of V Ships India, which does crew management for the Turkish ship-owner, told The Hindu over the phone.

Mr. Dalvi said the company didn’t have any information on the status of the cargo or position of the vessel at the moment. We were most concerned about the condition of the men and are happy to know they are safe. We will hopefully have more information on the vessel during the day,” he said.

Officials of the Director General of Shipping confirmed the development, saying the ship-owner confirmed to them that pirates had de-boarded the vessel.

The tanker was captured by pirates while at anchorage some 15 nautical miles off Port Gentil in Gabon on July 15.

It was reported in the days that followed the hijack that the ship was being steered to some secret destination in the Gulf of Guinea, an emerging haven for piracy, to transfer the cargo to a pirate-operated vessel. While the Ministry of External Affairs made efforts through diplomatic channels to ascertain the location of the ship and safety of the Indian crew, the ship was spotted off Togo two days ago.

The International Maritime Bureau was categorical in identifying the Gulf of Guinea as an emerging ‘springboard’ for piracy in its latest report.

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