17 August 2016

Malaysia says oil tanker hijacked, taken to Indonesia

A Malaysian oil tanker carrying 900,000 litres of diesel has been hijacked and is heading towards Indonesian waters, a maritime official said Wednesday.

“Initial investigations on the MT Vier Harmoni revealed that the ship was hijacked due to internal problems,” Ahmad Puzi Kahar, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency chief, said in a tweet.

He did not elaborate, but the phrase “internal problems” has been used in the past to refer to involvement by a ship’s crew.

“We are investigating the incident,” Puzi said, adding that the the ship was transporting diesel worth about 1.57 million ringgit ($392,000).

The maritime agency said the tanker was reported missing on Tuesday after setting sail from the Tanjung Pelepas port in southern Malaysia a day earlier.

Puzi said Wednesday that the vessel was headed into waters near Indonesia’s Batam island which lies off Singapore.

Noel Choong, the head of the International Maritime Bureau’s Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre, confirmed the oil tanker had gone missing.

“At the moment we do not have any information about the tanker or its whereabouts,” he told AFP.

A scourge for centuries, piracy in Southeast Asian had been significantly reduced over the past decade thanks to stepped-up regional cooperation and maritime patrols.

However, in 2015 the region was struck by a string of hijackings with criminal gangs targeting slow-moving tankers carrying valuable petrol which they would offload and sell.

In June 2015, pirates commandeered a Malaysian-flagged tanker in the South China Sea for a week before escaping from the vessel in a lifeboat.


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