Oil tanker hijacked off Malaysia

A small oil tanker was hijacked off the southeast coast of Malaysia over the weekend in the second such incident in the same area this month, raising further concerns over piracy in Southeast Asia, maritime officials said yesterday.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said the 7,300 deadweight tonne (DWT) Orkim Harmony disappeared about 30 nautical miles from the Johor port of Tanjung Sedili, carrying around 50,000 barrels of RON95 gasoline.

“This is a confirmed case of piracy,” said Vice Admiral Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, deputy director general of the operations unit of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). Maritime authorities in all Southeast Asian countries have been contacted to help search for the missing ship, he said.

Traders said the hijacked vessel was small compared with the 300,000 DWT of a standard super-tanker, and the missing fuel volume was not enough to impact markets.

The Orkim Harmony is operated by Malaysia’s Orkim Ship Management, which said the vessel was on the way to Kuantan port on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia from Malacca.

The crew of 22 consists of 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and one Myanmar national, Orkim said.

Ahmad Puzi criticized the shipowner for waiting too long before contacting authorities.

“Orkim only alerted authorities 10 hours after they lost contact with Orkim Harmony. The lapse after they lost communication made it very difficult for us,” he said.

The vessel issued no distress call and all communications and tracking systems have been turned off, he said.

The vessel’s last known position was southwest of Pulau Aur, Mersing in Malaysian waters, the shipowner said. Islands in the area are popular with tourists for their beaches and diving.

The MMEA said the gasoline on the ship was owned by state-controlled oil and gas company Petronas.

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