NEW DELHI - A tanker with 22 Indian crew on board has been released by pirates who had seized the vessel off the coast of West Africa, the company that manages the ship said Tuesday.

The Panama-registered MT Marine Express, loaded with 13,500 tonnes of petrol, was anchored off Benin when authorities lost contact on Thursday.

“Marine Express, which was the subject of a pirate attack and seizure in the Gulf of Guinea on February 1st, is now back under the command of the captain and crew ,” the Hong Kong-based Anglo-Eastern said in a statement. “All crew members are reported to be safe and well, and the cargo of 13,500 tons of gasoline remains on board.”

The company did not say whether it had paid a ransom to secure the safe release of the crew and cargo. It thanked the captain and the crew for their “courage and fortitude in dealing with this difficult situation” and said it would investigate how it happened. Pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea have seriously disrupted the international shipping route, costing the global economy billions of dollars.

At the peak of the piracy crisis in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 boats were held.

A lack of economic opportunities and illegal fishing by foreign vessels have long been seen as the key grievance of the pirates .

While some hostages have been held for as long as five years, others have been released within days without harm but often after paying a substantial ransom.