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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tanker seized, pirates threaten to blow it up, then surrender to police

The Hindu reports here:
Suspected Indonesian pirates hijacked a Malaysian-registered tanker on Tuesday, held the crew hostage for nearly 12 hours and threatened to blow the vessel up, before surrendering to police and naval forces who laid siege on the ship, officials said.

Ten pirates armed with rifles attacked the vessel before dawn off Malaysia's northern Langkawi island in the Malacca Strait, said marine police commander Abdul Rahman Ahmad.

One of the tanker's 19 crew members escaped on a smaller boat and alerted mainland authorities, Abdul Rahman said. The tanker was carrying diesel and oil products from Port Klang in western Malaysia to Myanmar.

The standoff ended six hours after police chased down and surrounded the ship, he said.

The pirates, believed to be Indonesians, initially threatened to blow the tanker up, but after negotiations with police they surrendered, casting their rifles into the sea, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy watch center in Kuala Lumpur.

``We congratulate the police for successfully carrying out a smooth rescue without the loss of any lives or injuries,'' Choong said.

Update: Map of area of Malaysia involved - orange triangle marks Langkawi Island

Update2: The pirates were foiled by a quick thinking crewman:
A pirate attack on a Malaysian tanker in the Straits of Malacca was foiled Tuesday when a quick-thinking crewman from the vessel jumped into the robbers' boat and sped off in it to alert police.(source)
More on the failed attack:
After a three-hour standoff, the pirates, with no means of escape, were forced to surrender to Malaysian law enforcement officers. All 19 members of the tanker's crew were released, although preliminary reports say the captain of the ship sustained a light head injury.

It was a fortunate ending, but many other ships and crews in the narrow waters that separate Malaysia and Indonesia have not been so lucky. The Piracy Reporting Center, a Kuala Lumpur-based arm of the International Maritime Bureau says there were 37 attacks on shipping in the Strait last year, with 30 people killed and another 30 still missing.

"The Malacca Straits tend to be a favorite ground for pirates," said IMB deputy director Jayant Abhynkar. "They do board ships. At times, hijack them and then either hold the crew for ransom or just take the ship away with the cargo and discard the cargo somewhere. At the very least, it is straightforward robbery and they come on board, steal cash and then escape."(source)
And yet more detail:
The pirates surrendered to the marine police at 3.40pm, almost 12 hours after boarding the tanker, Nepline Delima, which was registered in Port Klang and owned by Shah Alam-based shipping company Nepline Berhad.

Kedah police chief Datuk Supian Ahmat said only a one-metre-long machete was found on the tanker while other weapons used by the pirates, believed to be firearms, had been thrown overboard.

He said the captain of the tanker, an Indonesian, and two crewmen were taken to Langkawi Hospital to be treated for injuries on their heads and faces sustained from being beaten by the pirates.

Three other crewmen were also treated at the hospital for dizziness, he told a media conference at the Langkawi marine police headquarters at Bukit Malut.

Supian said the pirates boarded the tanker, which was loaded with diesel and heading from Singapore to Myanmar with a 19-man crew, at about 4am 25 nautical miles west of Langkawi near Thailand's maritime border.(source)
The ill fated pirates:

(caption: "ARRESTED… Ten pirates surrendered without resistance after their attempt to seize a Malaysian-registered oil tanker off Langkawi was foiled by a crewman who dived into the sea, stole their speed boat and then led a police team back to the vessel. Pix: Kassim Saad")

The Nepline Delima apparently was previously attacked by pirates in the South China Sea in September of 2000. (source) and perhaps once before:
#9 May 2000 – A 4,600 gt Malaysian registered tanker ("Nepline Delima"), underway at 02.05N: 109.13E reported being boarded by four persons armed with long knives. The third officer was taken hostage and crew valuables and cash stolen before the boarders left the vessel. (source)
It seems to travel in some dangerous waters...

The ship is described as a "6,902 DWT Product Carrier Built 1995" (source)

Update3 (6/15/05); An article on the sailor who went and got the police here.

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