Malaysian navy urges tanker hi­jack­ers to give up

The China Post - - FEATURE - BY M. JE­GATH­E­SAN

Malaysia’s navy has lo­cated a tanker that dis­ap­peared a week ago in the South China Sea and was urg­ing its hi­jack­ers to sur­ren­der, the coun­try’s naval chief said on Thurs­day.

The MT Orkim Har­mony, which had 6,000 tons of petrol in its hold and 22 crew­men aboard, has been given fresh touches of paint and had its name al­tered to “Kim Har­mon,” ac­cord­ing to photos re­leased by Malaysia’s navy.

A pa­trol ves­sel was now shadow- ing the tanker and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with its hi­jack­ers in a bid to se­cure their sur­ren­der, Royal Malaysian Navy chief Adm. Ab­dul Aziz Jaa­far said on his Twit­ter feed.

“At least eight per­pe­tra­tors are on­board. They are armed with pis­tols and parangs (ma­chetes). They speak with In­done­sian ac­cent(s),” he added.

“All crew harmed.”

The ves­sel was in Viet­namese wa­ters, about 200 nau­ti­cal miles ( 370 kilo­me­ters) north­east of the Malaysian city of Kota Bahru, of-

are

safe and un- fi­cials said.

The Malaysian-reg­is­tered tanker is the latest vic­tim of in­creas­ingly brazen pi­rates be­hind an up­surge in hi­jack­ings in South­east Asia in the past two years.

The typ­i­cal tar­gets are tankers car­ry­ing valu­able diesel or gas oil.

Of­fi­cials have es­ti­mated the value of the MT Orkim Har­mony’s cargo at 21 mil­lion ring­git ( US$5.6 mil­lion). Its crew in­cludes 16 Malaysians, five In­done­sians and a Myan­mar na­tional.

It was en route from Malacca on usu­ally petrol, Malaysia’s west coast to the port of Kuantan on the eastern coast. Its own­ers lost con­tact with the ship last Thurs­day while it was off the south­ern state of Jo­hor.

The ves­sel was spot­ted Wed­nes­day by a search-and-res­cue op­er­a­tion, of­fi­cials said.

Piracy Hotspot

The Lon­don- based In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Bureau ( IMB) has re­peat­edly warned that the wa­ters of South­east Asia were be­com­ing the world’s piracy hotspot and called for decisive re­gional ac­tion to thwart at­tacks.

Pi­rates are prey­ing on slow-mov­ing small coastal tankers, with one at­tack oc­cur­ring ev­ery two weeks, the IMB said re­cently.

Pi­rates usu­ally siphon off car­goes to other ves­sels be­fore later re­leas­ing the tankers and crews.

The MT Orkim Har­mony’s own­ers, Malaysia’s Orkim Ship Man­age­ment, has said the tanker’s cargo ap­peared un­touched af­ter an­a­lyz­ing photos of the hi­jacked ves­sel, said Ah­mad Puzi, a top Malaysian coast guard of­fi­cial.

Asked whether author­i­ties might storm the ves­sel, he told re­porters in Malaysia’s ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal of Pu­tra­jaya, “our op­tions are open,” but he later sug­gested the navy pre­ferred to take the hi­jack­ers alive.

“We want to know their net­work, we want to know who is their king­pin and who they are,” he said.

South­east Asia saw 38 pi­rate at­tacks dur­ing Jan­uary-March, or 70 per­cent of the global to­tal of 54, the IMB said in an April re­port, call­ing the fre­quency of re­gional in­ci­dents “an in­creas­ing cause for con­cern.”

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, but has re-emerged.

Much of the world’s trade passes through the re­gion’s ship­ping lanes such as the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait be­tween Malaysia and In­done­sia.

The IMB said last De­cem­ber that pi­rates shot dead a crew mem­ber on a Viet­namese tanker off the eastern coast of Malaysia, but most at­tacks end with no re­ports of ca­su­al­ties.

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