Nov 12, 2013

    Pirates hit another tanker near Singapore for oil cargo

    PIRATES hijacked a second tanker in a month off the Malaysian coast near Singapore, Asia's biggest oil-trading hub, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

    Ten pirates armed with guns and knives boarded a vessel about 13.5km west of Malaysia's Pulau Kukup in the Strait of Malacca, forcing the crew to transfer its gasoil cargo to another ship, the IMB's Piracy Reporting Center said in a Nov 7 incident report on its website.

    The attack was about 55km west of Singapore, according to the co-ordinates recorded by the agency.

    The Malacca Strait, which connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, is one of the world's two "most strategic chokepoints" for oil trade, along with the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, according to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA). It's the shortest sea route between the Middle East and Asia, with about 15.2 million barrels of oil a day transported along the waterway in 2011, according to the EIA. About 90 per cent of that was crude.

    "Perhaps it's the work of some kind of gang," said Captain Mathew Mathai, the marine manager at the Nippon Maritime Center in Singapore, a research group funded by the Nippon Foundation.

    The attack is similar to those occurring off the coast of Nigeria because the pirates siphoned off the cargo, he said by phone yesterday. "You need an empty ship to transfer the cargo to. It may be a syndicate in operation."

    The oil-products tanker contained gasoil, the IMB said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. A fishing vessel was the only ship to be hijacked in the Strait of Malacca in all of last year, according to the organisation's website.

    The incident follows the hijacking of an oil-products tanker off Malaysia's Pulau Aur in the South China Sea on Oct 10, about 108km north-east of Singapore. Pirates stole the ship's cargo before abandoning it on Oct 15, the IMB's website shows.

    The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia reported that a vessel called the Danai 4, carrying marine gasoil from Singapore to Vietnam, lost contact with its owners in the area on Oct 10, according to an alert on its website.

    Singapore, at the southern end of the Malacca Strait, was the world's biggest container port last year, after Shanghai, and the busiest trans-shipment hub. It's the site of Royal Dutch Shell's largest oil refinery globally.

    There have been 206 reported incidents of piracy worldwide this year, including 11 hijackings, data from the IMB showed. The number of attacks fell globally to 188 in the nine months to September, from 233 for the same period last year.

    The number of armed-robbery attacks on vessels in Indonesia is rising, the IMB said on its website on Oct 17.