PUTRAJAYA — Pirates hijacked yet another oil tanker and siphoned off its cargo of 3,500 metric tonnes of fuel oil, ironically while the Royal Malaysian Navy was conducting an exercise to counter acts of piracy in Malaysian waters.
Singapore-registered MT Joaquim went missing on Saturday night after being hijacked by pirates near Port Dickson, 380km away from Tanjung Ayam, Johor, where the navy’s special warfare force (Paskal) was testing a mock scenario of a hijacking.
The oil tanker was found in Indonesian waters near Pulau Rupat at about 8:45am yesterday.
The hijacking came less than two months after the dramatic rescue of tanker Orkim Harmony’s crew members and the arrests of eight pirates.
The latest attack has added to the notoriety of the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea as among the most piracy prone waters in the world.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Vice-Admiral Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar said MT Joaquim was spotted by the agency’s Bombardier CL 415 aircraft, 14 nautical miles east of Pulau Rupat.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia would be urging its neighbours to review and step up anti-piracy coordination efforts following the latest hijacking.
He said Malaysia had working arrangements, including “eyes in the sky” surveillance and joint patrols, with Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand.
“I think these efforts must be revisited and we should call on other countries to come on board too,” he said in Kuala Lumpur.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the Marine Department was working closely with other agencies to bolster the security of the waterways in Malaysia.
“Security is of our great concern and we are stepping up measures to wipe out piracy,” he said.
Earlier, Ahmad Puzi told reporters the tanker’s captain and a crew member suffered minor injuries after they were beaten up by the pirates but 10 other crew members — nine Indonesians and a Singaporean — were safe.
He added that the stolen oil was worth 2.8 million ringgit (US$713.2 million).
Ahmad Puzi said initial investigations showed the ship’s Automatic Identification System was not activated where it was last tracked at 6am on Thursday.
He also did not rule out the possibility of an inside job as the vessel was tracked heading south instead of its north-bound destination.
“We will investigate this thoroughly to track the suspects together with neighbouring enforcement agencies, as well as the Royal Malaysian Navy and Air Force,” he added.
Ahmad Puzi said this was the eighth hijacking in Malaysian waters this year.
This article was written by Jastin Ahmad Tarmizi and Justin Zack and Beh Yuen Hui and Neville Spykerman and R.S.N. Murali from The Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / Asia News Network and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.