Country Risk

Attack on oil tanker in the Malacca Straits indicates pirates' increased organisational capability

23 April 2014
The Cargo ship Naniwa Maru No 1 travelling from Singapore to Myanmar loaded with diesel fuel was robbed in the strait of Malacca on 22 April 2014. Photo: PA

EVENT

Armed pirates in the early hours of 22 April attacked the Naniwa Maru No 1, a Singapore-operated oil tanker, near Port Klang, Malaysia, while it was travelling from Singapore to Yangon, Myanmar.

The shipping company reported that two vessels came alongside the tanker and five men appeared at the bridge. They held the crew while they siphoned off 2,500 tonnes of Marine Diesel Oil. The robbers then escaped, taking with them three crew members.

The attack on the Naniwa Maru No 1 bears a similarity with two other piracy incidents in late 2013. On 10 October, a 1,000-tonne tanker, the Danai 4 , was hijacked by armed pirates in a speedboat in the South China Sea near Tanjung Penawar, Malaysia. On 7 November, a 1,500-tonne chemical tanker, the GPT 21 , was boarded by 10 pirates armed with guns and knives off Pulau Kukup, Johor, Malaysia, in the Malacca Strait.

Piracy incidents in the sea waters off the Malay Peninsula have decreased from their peak in the mid-2000s following co-ordinated patrols by the Malaysian, Singaporean, and Indonesian navies. The International Maritime Bureau's latest figure up to the third quarter of 2013, recorded 11 piracy incidents in the area. Ships travelling through the area typically do not have armed guards and mainly rely on the security forces for protection. Incidents of piracy typically occur while vessels are at anchor and under cover of darkness.

FORECAST

The three incidents indicate a new trend with the likely involvement of a syndicate or syndicates capable of carrying out sophisticated large-scale theft taking several hours, suggesting a level of organisation that had not been evident in the sea waters off the Malay Peninsula in recent years. The large amount of oil stolen also indicates that the pirates have the network to offload their goods. Most piracy incidents in the area involve small-scale robberies of ship stores, electronic goods, or cash. There has been no report of any arrest in connection with the three incidents, which suggests that similar attacks are likely to recur.



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