ON 12 Feb, a Thailand-registered product tanker, Lapin, departed Singapore for Krabi province, Thailand. The vessel with 15 crew was laden with 2,000 tons of bunker oil when it was boarded and hijacked by 6-8 armed pirates.
Siphoning of Diesel and Bunker Oil
On 13 Feb at about 1955 LT, six to eight perpetrators armed with pistols and knives boarded Lapin from a small boat at approximately 39.73nm west-southwest of Port Klang, Malaysia in position 03:11N – 100:43E. The perpetrators gathered the crew and took control of the tanker. Thereafter, an unknown vessel came alongside Lapin and siphoned a total of five tons of diesel and 2,000 tons of bunker oil from Lapin. On 14 Feb, at about 0400 LT, the perpetrators stopped the vessel and anchored Lapin at approximately 62.7nm southwest of Port Klang in position 03:23.94N – 100:22.71E.
After the perpetrators had siphoned the fuel/oil from Lapin, they destroyed the communication devices onboard Lapin and stole the ship property and the crew’s belongings. The perpetrators also tied the crew, informed them that an improvised explosive package was left onboard and threatened the crew not to move, before they escaped.
Assistance by Thai authorities
On 14 Feb at about 0700 LT, the crew of Lapin managed to free themselves and sailed towards Thailand. On 15 Feb at about 0900 LT, Lapin anchored at approximately 14.34nm west of Ko Tarutao, Thailand and activated the Ship Security Alarm System (SSAS). On the same day at or about 1145 LT, the master managed to contact the shipping company with the assistance of a passing fishing vessel. (Click Map to enlarge).
The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) which is the ReCAAP Focal Point (Thailand) informed the ReCAAP ISC that on 15 Feb at about 1420 LT, the Thai authorities boarded Lapin at a location north of Ko Tarutao and rendered assistance to the crew. The Focal Point also mentioned that a Thai Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team managed to disarm the “improvised’ explosive package and found only an electric circuit with no explosive or detonator attached.
Comments by the ReCAAP ISC
This is the first successful siphoning incident reported in 2015, and it occurred in the Malacca Strait. The last incident occurred in the Malacca Strait was in April 2014 involving Naniwa Maru No. 1, off Port Klang. Most of the siphoning incidents reported in 2014 occurred in the South China Sea. While the incident involving Lapin displayed the usual trend observed in previous siphoning incidents, the use of a ‘dummy’ explosive package by the perpetrators to threaten the crew is a first case, and of concern to the ReCAAP ISC. The use of this ploy serves to distract the authorities, delay their responses and deter the crew from doing much whilst the perpetrators escaped. The ReCAAP ISC will continue to monitor the situation and urge ship masters and crew to exercise extra vigilance.
OCEANUSLive mirrors the concerns raised by ReCAAP ISC. Whether ‘dummy’ or real, an IED should not be moved or tampered with by crew. An immediate report to authorities is recommended along with measures taken to isolate the compartment containing the IED. Crew members should maintain their distance and the nearest safe port should be informed and an anchorage requested for the vessel to enable authorities to despatch a team to investigate.