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Piracy Feared As More Countries Join Search for Vietnamese Oil Tanker

More nations are joining the search for the Sunrise-689, which went missing last week off Singapore.

More nations have joined the search for a Vietnamese oil tanker that went missing off Singapore last week, officials said, in what many fear could be the latest instance of piracy in Southeast Asia.

The Sunrise-689 was carrying 5,226 tons of oil products and 18 crew members when coast guard officials lost radio contact with it on Thursday, less than an hour after departing from Singapore, Vietnamese search and rescue authorities said.

The vessel had been scheduled to arrive Sunday at Cua Viet in central Vietnam.

Nguyen Vu Diep, head of ship safety operations for the Hai Phong Fisheries Shipbuilding Company, which operates the Sunrise-689, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service on Wednesday that at least three countries have begun helping in the search.

“Countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are helping Vietnam with the search,” he said. “They have sent search [teams] to that area. Planes were sent there [Tuesday] afternoon. They have not reported any results from the search, so we do not have any information."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hanoi said it had asked for help from Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia in the search.

Diep said there was no sign indicating the disappearance was an accident, but officials feared it could be instead piracy.

“We are calling for the government to quickly take action. We cannot rely on other authorized agencies or insurance companies, but the government that should quickly act on this,” he said.

Piracy is becoming a growing problem in the teeming commercial waterways of Southeast Asia. The region has seen at least six cases of coastal tankers being seized for their cargo since April, according to the International Maritime Bureau.