News / Asia

Malaysian Tanker Hijacked on South China Sea

FILE - Ships are seen anchored in front of a refinery on Singapore's Bukom Island, July 6, 2014.FILE - Ships are seen anchored in front of a refinery on Singapore's Bukom Island, July 6, 2014.
x
FILE - Ships are seen anchored in front of a refinery on Singapore's Bukom Island, July 6, 2014.
FILE - Ships are seen anchored in front of a refinery on Singapore's Bukom Island, July 6, 2014.

A Malaysian-flagged oil tanker has been hijacked in the South China Sea and its cargo siphoned. It is the latest in a recent spate of such incidents blamed on sophisticated criminal gangs.

The Royal Malaysian Navy says 15 crewmembers aboard the drifting MT Oriental Glory are safe but three crew members are reported to have been injured after the tanker was hijacked and 2,500 tons of marine gas oil were stolen from the vessel.
 
Hijacked tanker

The 85-meter-long ship was en route to Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo from Singapore when it was attacked just before midnight.
 
The pirates damaged the ship’s communications equipment and engine.
 
This is the ninth such hijacking since late April.
 
During these incidents the attackers, after commandeering the vessels, have siphoned the diesel or gasoline onto pirate bunker barges or other tankers.
 
Some specialists believe that better reporting by crews and ship owners may partly explain the upsurge in such incidents recently.

The identity of the gangs remain unknown. Also unclear is whether the profits from black market sales of the siphoned fuel might be financing political or more nefarious activities, such as terrorism.
 
But what is certain, according to Ian Millen, the chief operating officer of Dryad Maritime, is the hijackings are the work of highly organized criminal professionals with knowledge of how to disable critical ship systems.
 
“We're talking here about things like communications and navigation systems that will make life difficult for owners or any kind of law enforcement to track and detect these vessels once they've been hijacked. They also show experience and expertise in being able to handle things like fuel transfer hoses,” said Millen.

The International Maritime Bureau issued a warning last month to small tankers to “maintain strict anti-piracy measures in the South China Sea.”
 
Operating with impunity

The IMB is to release this week its detailed bi-annual report on pirate attacks globally, which will note the escalation of hijackings of small tankers in the South China Sea.
 
International Maritime Bureau director Pottengal Mukundan blames the attacks on a few gangs that operate with impunity when extracting a valuable commodity from soft targets.
 
“The cost of diesel oil is expensive. So they see a financial return in this. There hasn't been any of these gangs, so far, caught and punished by the countries in the region. So, I think, they see it as an easy option, so far. But having said that the navies, the coast guards and the police are very aware of it in these countries. And, I think, that they will be looking to catch one of these gangs soon and punish them under law,” Mukundan explained.
 
The U.K-based Dryad maritime intelligence consultancy advises that the best defense against such attacks is for crews to remain alert around the clock by keeping visual and radar watches and keeping the movements of their vessels confidential.
 
If that fails, experts say crews can try to spray water or foam towards the pirates or use ballast pumps to flood the decks to deter boarding attempts.
 
Vulnerabilities

Though the pirates in the South China Sea are armed with machetes, knives and sometimes guns and do threaten to use their weapons, Dryad’s Millen said, there are hurdles to employing armed guards on the vulnerable ships.
 
“We're talking about a lot of territorial waters, which is the sort of the place these acts take place or very close to them. The logistics and the legal implications of operating armed guards in this very complex archipelagic region make life difficult for that kind of thing,” said Millen.

Maritime piracy was a significant problem in the Strait of Malacca until 2006.
 
Since then, until this April, in the Strait or the adjacent South China Sea, there would usually be no more than one or two tanker hijackings per year.

The pirates now appear to be specifically targeting smaller sized vessels carrying fuel, avoiding supertankers. They have abandoned attacks on tankers carrying chemicals, such as methanol or bitumen, which are not so easy to sell.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
July 17, 2014 12:24 AM
The reason Malaysian tankers are more vulnerable than other countries' tankers because their ships do not have the kind of protective devises others have. You can see that in the movie where Tom Hanks played the captain of a tanker being captured by Somalian pirates.


by: Not Again from: Canada
July 16, 2014 10:02 AM
These type of incidents demonstrate that no one is in control of the South China Sea; a bad situation that has been going on for decades. The bordering countries do not have the wil,l or resources, or even the capabilities to bring law and order into the South China Sea and related waterways; if China was in control, I think, the situation would dramatically improve., piracy and terrorism would soon be stamped out and the waterways would be safe for all..

In Response

by: Jeff McNeill from: Thailand
July 16, 2014 8:24 PM
China in control over other countries' territorial waters and international waterways? Really? What kind of moronic idea is this? Illegal and frankly offensive. Come to Southeast Asia and make this idea known to local people, that China should take over their territorial waters. You will be disabused of this notion very quickly.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid