The ICC Commercial Crime Services’ International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is warning small tankers to maintain strict anti-piracy measures in the South China Sea following a spate of tanker hijackings in the region.
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.
Up until then, the majority of attacks in the region were boarding’s for petty theft.
The latest hijackings seem to follow a specific modus operandi, where armed pirates seize a small tanker and siphon off its cargo to large bunker barges or other small tankers in a ship-to-ship operation.
In some cases navigational equipment is destroyed but the crew are left unhurt. They then release the hijacked vessels.
IBM has issued a warning to all ships that these attacks have occurred against small coastal tankers primarily in the South China Sea waters off Bintan and Bintulu islands.
On June 7 a tanker was hijacked off Bintulu Island. According to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the vessel was heading towards the port of Labuan when pirates boarded it.
After locking up the 22 crew in a room, they ordered the master and chief officer to stop the vessel. A barge alongside then siphoned-off the cargo of oil.
“Approximately 100 metric tonnes of diesel was transferred and items belonging to the crew were stolen. The pirates also destroyed the ship’s navigational equipment and radar system.
They then instructed the master to continue on course to Labuan. The tanker was captured for 10 hours and the crew unhurt,” said MMEA.
Maritime security analysts Dryad Maritime believes the hijacking was carried out by organised gangs involved in the marine fuel black market in the region.
The IMB advises all ships, but particularly small tankers, to maintain strict anti-piracy measures and vessels are advised to monitor the IMB PRC satellite broadcast warnings via InMARSAT C EGC Safety Net and to report all attacks and suspicious sightings to the IMB-PRC.
June 18, 2014; Image: HRT