An oil tanker with nobody on board has mysteriously washed up on a beach on the west coast of Africa, leaving officials scratching their heads as to how it got there.

The 63m, Panama-flagged Tamaya 1was found beached in Robertsport, Liberia on May 4 with no sign of captain or crew.

The vessel's last known position was recorded on April 22, 2016, as the ship was steaming southward at 0.7 knots towards Senegal after leaving the port of Dakar in Senegal, according to MarineTraffic.com.

The ship cuts an eerie sight, dwarfing locals as they flock to the beach to marvel at the strange sight and speculate about what fate might have befallen its crew members.

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Theories range from abandonment to piracy, although Tamaya 1's last known position was well north of active Gulf of Guinea pirate groups who typically stick to the waters off Nigeria.

The Liberia national police and bureau of immigration inspected the ship, days after local residents first discovered it on the beach.

A port authority insider said: "Our best bet is that the vessel's owner might have gone broke and had no money to pay crew members ... and therefore, the crew abandoned the ship."

The ship was reportedly looted and vandalised as it lay stranded on the shore. Police are now trying to keep locals away from the ship as they investigate.

Adding to the confusion, the Liberian government has copped a barrage of criticism after it was revealed it was unaware of the ship's existence until two days after it washed ashore.

The revelation has triggered a debate over safety and security in Liberian waters.

An investigation is has been launched by local authorities under the auspices of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA).

The authority will meet to determine the facts behind the incident later this week, when more details are expected to be revealed.