MALAYSIA: A tanker crewman has been shot dead off the coast of Malaysia, the IMB confirmed today.
Seven armed men boarded the Vietnamese-flagged asphalt/bitumen tanker VP Asphalt 2 yesterday. They asked for details of the cargo and even opened hatches to take samples of the cargo.
Not satisfied with the nature of the cargo, the armed men left the vessel after robbing the crew of their valuables. At some point during the robbery a seafarer was shot, although the circumstances are not yet clear, the IMB said. He was airlifted to Singapore by a Singapore Air Force helicopter where he died in a hospital.
The IMB suspects the pirates were looking for gas or fuel oil, raising suspicion that an organised syndicate is operating in the region targeting oil cargo worth millions of dollars, and the syndicate may even be looking at taking hostages for ransom.
This new threat building up in the region, which has seen 12 similar incidents since April with the same modus operandi, has prompted the IMB to lodge a report with Interpol so that a more co-ordinated probe into these incidents can result in a serious attempt to thwart the operations of the suspects.
IMB Piracy Reporting Centre head Noel Chong told IHS Maritime today that if not checked immediately, the suspected pirate groups will be emboldened and go further. He said the IMB will call in Interpol to help with investigations.
Chong drew a parallel with the rise of Somalia piracy. The problem started there with one gang attacking vessels for oil, which then grew to an international crisis involving much larger tankers and millions of dollars paid out by shipowners to free their cargo, vessel and crew, he asserted.