THE TREND of incidents involving siphoning of fuel/oil from product and oil tankers at sea is not new. Statistics for Jan – Jul of 2014 reveal that the occurrence of such incidents took place more frequently compared to the annual numbers reported in the past three years (2011-2013).
Attributing to the surge in the number of incidents are various factors, including the market price of fuel/oil, the demand for fuel/oil in underground markets, the absence of authorities in locations where the siphoning occurred which in most instances, were outside areas of jurisdiction.
The objectives of this report are: to provide an update on incidents involving siphoning of fuel/oil during 2011-2014 (up to mid-July 2014), to share the modus operandi of pirates/robbers involved in these incidents, to promote best practices and share lessons learned through case studies, and to recommend appropriate countermeasures to be adopted by authorities and shipping industry collectively.
Incidents involving siphoning of fuel/oil (2011-2014)
Between 2011 and Jul 2014, a total of 16 incidents of siphoning of fuel/oil were reported, of which 11 incidents of siphoning were successfully carried out. The other five incidents were foiled because of timely intervention by enforcement agencies arising from timely reporting of the incidents to the ReCAAP ISC or the authorities who triggered the relevant agencies to promptly respond to the incident. In other unsuccessful cases, the crew exercised enhanced vigilance by triggering the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), or reporting the incident to vessels in the vicinity immediately. Of the 11 successful incidents of siphoning reported during 2011- 2014, one occurred in 2011, one in 2012, two in 2013 and seven in 2014. See map right (click to enlarge).
Location of incidents
Notably, majority of the incidents occurred in the South China Sea (SCS). Of the 11 incidents reported during 2011-Jul 2014, seven occurred in the SCS, two in Indonesia, one in Malaysia and one in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). The SCS was far away from shore, and outside the area of jurisdiction of regional authorities who would require more time to arrive at the location of the incident. This worked in favour of the pirates who could ‚Äòbuy time‚Äô in carrying out their siphoning activities, and escaped before the arrival of the authorities.
Due to the high market price and taxes imposed on fuel/oil, illegal siphoning has been a lucrative business. So long as there are demands for fuel/oil in underground markets, siphoning incidents would occur unless a holistic approach is adopted to tackle the problem by the authorities and the shipping industry collectively.
Several observations from the series of incidents reported between 2011 and Jul 2014 are as follows:
- Demand for fuel/oil remains high and pirates/robbers are likely to continue with this lucrative business unless governments and shipping industry can work together collectively to arrest the perpetuators to serve as a deterrence;
- Pirates/robbers appeared to have knowledge of the amount and types of fuel/oil carried onboard the tankers and the route taken by the tankers;
- The possibility of conspiracy between two tankers as evident in the incident involving Scorpio and Sea Jade, which was later foiled had it not been for the presence of MMEA patrol boat in the vicinity;
- The possibility of conspiracy between the pirates/robbers and the master and crew of the victim tanker as in the case of Naniwa Maru No. 1, where the master together with Chief Officer and Chief Engineer left the tanker with the robbers, bringing along their personal belongings and travel documents. The crew was initially alleged to be kidnapped were deemed otherwise following investigation by local authorities.
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