Pirates in southeast Asia have made off with about 700,000 litres of diesel stolen from an oil tanker off Johor, Malaysia, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency has confirmed.
According to the MMEA, as many as 7 pirates in a speedboat attacked and boarded the tanker MT Ai Maru approximately 31 nautical miles east of Tanjung Sedili on Saturday evening as the vessel sailed from Singapore to Cambodia.
The MMEA estimates that the pirates used another ship to offload approximately 700,000 litres of diesel estimated to be worth RM 1.4 million (approximately $434,000). The pirates are believed to have fled to nearby islands following the arrival a Malaysian Navy patrol vessel, the report adds.
An investigation has been launched by the MMEA and will look into the involvement of the Ai Maru’s 13 Thai crew and Indonesian captain. A spokesman for the MMEA said that in the past there have been similar incidents involving vessels allegedly belonging to the same company.
“Based on the investigation of the crew, the pirates were pumping out oil within three hours and a half to another ship which is uncertain,” the MMEA statement said (translated).
“During the incident the captain claimed the crew was locked in a room while he had been ordered to steer the ship by a group armed with machetes and a gun,” the statement added.
The Ai Maru has since been escorted to Pengerang waters where the investigation will be take place.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has been informed of the incident.
This latest attack has prompted the International Maritime Bureau to issue a new piracy warning to small tankers in the South China Sea. IMB notes at least six known cases of coastal tankers being hijacked for their cargoes of diesel or gas oil have been reported since April this year, sparking fears of a new trend in pirate attacks in the area.