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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs