The Jakarta Post, Batam, Wednesday June 04 2014
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) announced that the Thai-flag tanker MT Orapin 4, laden with diesel fuel, has been hijacked on its voyage from Singapore to Indonesia.
Authorities lost contact with the tanker after it left an oil terminal in Singapore on May 27.
Following up on the case, the Indonesian Navy’s Western Fleet Security Task Force deployed a number of naval vessels and aircraft to search for the ship.
In its report, the IMB announced that the tanker went missing some 4 kilometers north of Batam island in the Riau Islands.
The act of piracy may signal a return of maritime crime in the Malacca Strait, which in recent years has seen piracy rates plummet to zero.
“The Navy received information on the piracy case, and we have taken measures to investigate. So far we have found no trace [of the ship],” said Commodore Harjo Susmoro, who commands the task force that oversees the western part of the country.
According to Harjo, naval ships and aircraft were deployed to search for the tanker on May 31.
Four Navy patrol boats are searching around the clock in the Malacca Strait, while a number of Nomad Navy patrol aircraft have been placed on standby Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam and at Raja Haji Fisabilillah Airport in Tanjung Pinang, both of which function as Navy aerial patrol bases.
Batam’s naval base commander, Col. Ribut Eko Suyatno, said neither the tanker owner, operator or any other party had formally reported the hijacking of MT Orapin 4 to the Indonesian Navy, but that intelligence officers were following up on other information reports.
“We have acted on information received by operational forces, but we have yet to receive a formal report [from anyone on the ship],” said Ribut.
Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, the Thai tanker that went missing after leaving Singapore last week has been released by pirates who stole its oil cargo.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said it had been informed by the ship’s owner that Mt Orapin 4 had been released and had arrived safely at Sri Racha Port in Thailand on Sunday.
The ship’s owner lost contact with the vessel and its 14 crew members after it left Singapore on June 27. The ship was due at Pontianak Port, Kalimantan, two days later but failed to arrive.
“Pirates hijacked and stole the tanker’s oil cargo onboard and destroyed the communication equipment. The crew and vessel are safe,” said Noel Choong, who heads the bureau’s piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur. No further details were available.
Separately, the Main Naval Base Region IV, which covers Riau Islands province, has recorded that despite occasional episodes of onboard theft, ship hijackings have been all but eliminated in the Malacca Strait in recent years.