Malaysian Oil Tanker Carrying RM15 Million Worth Of Petrol Likely Hijacked By Pirates

Missing since Thursday, MT Orkim Harmony is likely to be the second oil tanker to have been hijacked by pirates this month alone.

Cover image via South China Morning Post

8 suspects come clean about hijacking the MT Orkim Harmony fuel tanker

The eight suspects in the hijacking of Malaysian oil tanker MT Okim Harmony

Image via BHM

The eight suspects arrested in Vietnamese waters near Tho Chu Island have confessed to hijacking Malaysian oil tanker MT Orkim Harmony.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director-general (operations) Maritime Vice-Admiral Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar confirmed that the suspects, all Indonesians, came clean to Vietnamese authorities.

The suspects, aged 19 to 61, were caught carrying large amounts of cash, and failed to explain the origin of the large volume of foreign currency, together with dozens of phones.

19 June: MT Orkim Harmony oil tanker and 22 crew members returning safely to Malaysian soil

In a startling turn of events, the pirates holding the MT Orkim Harmony oil tanker jumped ship and escaped, said the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar said that the eight pirates had sailed off on a rescue boat from the oil tanker, leaving behind the 22 crew members on the vessel, who are reportedly unharmed.

To add, about 6,000 metric tonnes of RON95 fuel worth RM21 million carried by the MT Orkim Harmony is believed to be intact, according to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

MMEA deputy director-general (operations) Maritime Admiral Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar said that it was confirmed by the oil-tanker's owner, called to identify the ship after it was found yesterday.

KD PAHANG and KD HANDALAN will be accompanying Orkim Harmony back to its original destination in Kuantan, Malaysia.

"Pirates" of MT Orkim Harmony are on the run when they escaped via the tanker's safety boat last night

Eight hijackers of the MT Orkim Harmony escaped last night between 8.15 and 8.30pm using the vessel's escape boat, said Royal Malaysian Navy chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

He said the vessel’s last position when the hijackers escaped was 165 nautical miles North, North east of Gong Kedak, Jertih, Terengganu. A P3 Orion, C 130 and Beechcraft planes are currently tracking the escaped pirates. The navy also has assigned three ships and two helicopters to the search.

He gave no further details on how the pirates managed to get away, but said the navy would soon issue a statement.

Called part-timers on a maiden voyage, hijacker's of the MT Orkim Harmony plead for freedom

Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar

Image via Malaysian Insider

The pirates holding the MT Orkim Harmony appeared to be amateurs, who have no more interest in the cargo but are more concerned with their escape.

Quoting navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar, he said the eight pirates who took control of the tanker were "practically begging" for the Malaysian authorities to let them go.

Calling them “part-timers on a maiden voyage”, he said: “We asked for their demands and all they want is for us to give them a boat, water and food, and to let them leave. But we can’t do that.”

Abdul Aziz said his men reported that the pirates spoke with an Indonesian accent and sounded timid
Image via The Star

18 June: Missing Malaysian fuel tanker on 11 June was found near Cambodian waters today

Image via The Star

A fuel-laden Malaysian tanker that went missing off the east coast of Johor last Thursday has been detected in Cambodian waters, with a new coat of paint and a new name, said Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

The MT Orkim Harmony, carrying 6,000 tonnes of petrol valued at RM21 million, is being tailed from the air by aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), he said.

“We have found the vessel and RMAF, MMEA and RAAF aircraft are tailing it from the air,” he said.

The vessel, owned by Magna Meridian Sdn Bhd, had 22 crew on board, 16 of them Malaysians and the rest Indonesian and Myanmar nationals.

15 June: A Malaysian-flagged oil tanker carrying 6,000 metric tonnes (nearly 7.5 million gallons) of RON95 petrol had gone missing in the South China Sea near Johor on 11 June

Image via SONY DSC

At the current Malaysian pump price of RM2.05 per litre, the fuel that weighed some 6,000 tonnes is worth around RM15 million.

According to the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the vessel - MT Orkim Harmony - was en route to Kuantan from Malacca when it suddenly lost contact with ground personnel on Thursday evening. The ship was manned by crew of 22-strong, including 16 Malaysians, 5 Indonesians, and a Myanmar national.

"The last known location for the tanker was about 30 nautical miles of Tanjung Sedili east when it suddenly lost contact at around 8.50pm,'' said MMEA operations director southern region Maritime First Admiral Ibrahim Mohamed.

He said MMEA received a report from the shipping company Orkim Ship Management Sdn Bhd on the missing tanker at about 6.30am on June 12.

"We immediately deployed our assets upon receiving the report from the company," said Ibrahim.

Search operations, involving boats from MMEA and the Royal Malaysian Navy, are ongoing and have been extended to waters off neighbouring countries. MMEA had also forwarded a missing vessel report to Singaporean and Indonesian authorities as well as passing vessels along the route to assist in the search.

The search operation involved MMEA's boats - KM Mulia, KM Niah and a patrol boat - with assistance from the Royal Malaysian Navy's KD Laksamana Tan Pusmah and KD Ganyang.

The search area now covers 20,000 sq km from Tanjung Penawar in Kota Tinggi to Mersing as well as the maritime territories of Singa­pore and Indonesia.

Ibrahim said MMEA had also forwarded a missing vessel report to Singapore's Coast Guard and the Indonesian authorities Badan SAR Nasional and Badan Keamanan Laut Republik Indonesia.

"We have also alerted to other passing vessels along the route via Navtext to assist us in the search operation," he said.

PM Najib Razak expressed concern over the missing vessel on Twitter and Facebook, saying that he is "distressed" by the news. He also prayed for the safety of the crew and assured that government resources are being deployed to locate the ship.

I am distressed by the news of a missing Malaysian-owned tanker. I pray for the safety of the 22-strong crew of which...

Posted by Najib Razak on Sunday, 14 June 2015

While the ship's whereabouts have yet to be determined, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said that it is likely to have been hijacked by pirates as the ship is carrying "the kind of cargo that is usually hijacked"

"We don't know the whereabouts of the ship right now or what happened but it is likely a hijack of the cargo," said Noel Choong, head of the IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre.

"The ship was carrying the kind of cargo that is usually hijacked."

Earlier this month, Orkim Harmony's sister vessel Orkim Victory was hijacked off the east coast Peninsular Malaysia, with some of its oil cargo stolen by armed men on 4 June. Fortunately, the ship arrived safely in the Kuantan port with its 18 crew members later that day.

Orkim Victory, also an oil tanker, was hijacked on 4 June 4 by eight men armed with two hand guns and a parang, who locked the crew in a cabin.

According to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), the Orkim Victory hijacking occurred just off Pulau Aur as well, where the perpetrators towed the ship 22.6km (12.2 nautical miles) off the island before spending seven hours transferring 770 tonnes of diesel into another tan­ker.

"They took hostage all crew members, altered course and sailed the vessel until it rendezvoused with another vessel into which part of the oil cargo was transferred and stolen," it said on its Commercial Crime Services page. Before leaving, the pirates stole items belonging to the ship and its crew. They also damaged its radios. "Personal belongings ie. money, laptops and handphones were stolen.

"The ship safely arrived (in) Kuantan at 7pm yesterday (Thursday)," said MMEA C3i (Command, Control, Communication and Information) director Capt (Maritime) Hamid Mohd Amin. The pirates, Hamid said, fled to Pulau Matek in the Anambas Islands region, Indonesia. Hamid said the Indonesian Coast Guard was told of the matter and that the MMEA was investigating the case.

According to a report released by IMB in April, there have been 38 pirate attacks on the waters of Southeast Asia from January to March this year. The agency has also been issuing warnings over the past two years on the SEA seas becoming the world's piracy hotspot.

In a quarterly report released in April, it said pirates attacked one such tanker every two weeks in the region's waters in the first quarter of 2015. Much of the world's trade passes through its shipping lanes such as the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia.

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

Pirates usually syphon off the cargo to other vessels before releasing the ships and their crews.

Piracy in the region had been significantly reduced in the previous decade by stepped-up regional cooperation and maritime patrols, but has re-emerged as a hazard.

In April last year, a Thailand-owned oil tanker as well as a Japanese-registered oil vessel were hijacked by pirates less than a week apart from each other:

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