By ADRIAN DAVID
3 CASES: Syndicate believed to be behind RM5 million heists of oil and gas cargo
KUALA LUMPUR: MARITIME authorities have issued warnings to commercial ships, especially oil and gas tankers plying the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca, in view of¬† hijackings in recent months.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency deputy director-general (operations) Vice-Admiral Datuk Ahmad Puzi Abdul Kahar said the agency had reason to believe that a syndicate was involved, based on the modus operandi of the pirates.
The syndicate is believed to have taken almost half a day or more to siphon off oil and gas cargo, believed to be estimated at RM5 million, from two tankers recently.
The New Straits Times learnt that the two stricken tankers were the Thai-flagged 1,000-tonne Danai 4, operated by Thai International Tankers, and the Panama-flagged 1,5000-tonne GPT 21, operated by Global Unique Petroleum in Singapore.
Danai 4 was hijacked by pirates on a speedboat near Tanjung Penawar, Pulau Aur, off Mersing, at 5.30am on Oct 10. Nine pirates, wearing masks and armed with guns, boarded the tanker and held the crew hostage for two days.
Communication equipment were destroyed and the pirates stole the tanker’s gas oil, crew’s personal belongings and ship’s properties.
GPT 21 was boarded by 10 pirates armed with guns and knives 7.3 nautical miles from Pulau Kukup, off Pontian, Johor at 3.30am on Nov 7.
They forced the captain and boatswain to transfer the gas and oil to a waiting orange hull tanker.
In a third incident at 9.15am on Sept 23, eight armed masked pirates in a high-speed craft robbed a supply ship 22 nautical miles off Pulau Tenggol off Terengganu and escaped three hours later.
On reports that MMEA had failed to aid the ailing vessels, Puzi said the stricken crew did not alert the agency in time for action to be initiated.
“It is inaccurate to state that we did not respond. We were not alerted by the ships’ crew or any other party.
“By the time the incident was relayed to us, the culprits had scooted away to international waters.”
“We have repeatedly advised vessels plying our waters to alert us should they encounter acts of crime. The onus is on the ship’s captain to take appropriate action to inform us.”
Meanwhile, International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre head Noel Choong said it had issued stern piracy warnings to vessels transiting the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, Malaysian waters in southern Johor, off Tioman Island, east coast of the peninsula and South China Sea.
“With the increase in piracy attacks, all vessels have been advised to have anti-piracy measures, be extra vigilant and report suspicious sightings and attacks.