23 April- Armed pirates have raided an oil tanker in the Malacca Strait off the coast of Malaysia and took three crew members with them. Eight Indonesian pirates in a fishing vessel boarded the Naniwa Maru No 1 at 0100 local time on Tuesday off the coast of west Malaysia. The pirates pumped out nearly 3 million litres of diesel carried by the tanker into two waiting vessels and made off with three Indonesian crew members, including the captain, his first officer, and the chief engineer.
The Naniwa Maru No 1 was hijacked in position 02° 59’N, 100° 54’E, about 16nm off western Malaysia near the town of Port Klang. The ship was en route to Myanmar. The boarding party grouped the 18 crew members in a room and robbed them of mobile phones and cash, while two other ships pulled alongside and drained the tanker for about eight hours.
The Malacca Strait is a route for nearly one fourth of the world’s maritime oil trade. The incident has fuelled fears that piracy could be on the rise in the area, and cause an increase in ship insurance premiums.
Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s Malaysia-based Piracy Reporting Centre, said, “It’s the first time this has happened so far north in the Malacca Strait, and the first time they have kidnapped the crew. It’s not an area where we have seen the modus operandi of ships hijacked for their cargo.”
Malaysian authorities have announced they are now investigating whether the missing captain and two senior crew members were involved in the piracy plot. The captain, the chief engineer and first officer, identified as Indonesian nationals, left the ship with their personal belongings and the ship’s manifest. No ransom demand has been made.
Abdul Rahim Abdullah, deputy commander of Malaysia’s marine police said the incident was more sophisticated than a typical pirate attack. “I have discounted kidnapping. Our focus now will be on the involvement of the three crew who were taken away by the perpetrators.”
Abdul-Rahim added that detailed technical knowledge of the ship and its operations would be required to conduct this operation. The tanker and the ships to which it was off-loading had to be kept at a constant speed and on the same course while the diesel was being pumped out.
The Naniwa Maru No 1 is owned by Altra Propserous Ltd. of Saint Kitts and Nevis and is under the management of Canter Singapore Ltd., a Singapore-based company. It is docked in Malaysian waters pending further investigation.
The Strait of Malacca between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia is one of the world’s busiest waterways and has historically been plagued by piracy, but attacks and armed robbery have declined in recent years. However, a risk of armed robbery remains present in ports and anchorages regionally. Vessels are urged to review their anti-piracy plans to mitigate the risk of attacks in the eastern extent of the Malacca straits. Risk of violence directed at crew members can be high.
Between 50 – 100 criminals, including notorious jihadist terrorist Fadli Sadama, remain at large following a devastating riot and subsequent jailbreak in Indonesia on Thursday night. A huge manhunt involving the police and military is currently on-going throughout the province of North Sumatra; however there are indications many prisoners may have successfully avoided detection and escaped to other neighbouring provinces. While the direct threat from this incident to foreign visitors or shipping in Indonesia is likely still low, major disruption is to be expected in light of the authorities’ manhunt, particularly in North Sumatra province.
The riot began on Thursday evening at the maximum security Tanjung Gusta prison in Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra province and close to the busy shipping port of Belawan. The riot reportedly began after a power cut disabled water and electricity supplies to the prison on Thursday morning. The prisoners began a protest which escalated into violence throughout the day. Breaking out of their cells, the prisoners proceeded to set fire to numerous parts of the prison, steal guns and take around 15 prison officers hostage. A stand-off with police and the military ensued, while the blaze killed 2 prison staff. 3 prisoners also died in the rioting, before the Indonesian military was allowed to enter and re-establish control peacefully.
In the chaos however, over 200 prisoners reportedly made good their escape from the prison. Authorities moved quickly, establishing road blocks and beginning a huge province-wide manhunt with over 1000 troops. This led to the rapid recapturing of many prisoners; however as of writing it is believed around half of the escapees remain at large. Some were recaptured in neighbouring provinces, showing they managed to successfully circumvent the authorities within North Sumatra and suggesting others may now be at large in other provinces of Indonesia.
There is no indication currently that the riot or subsequent jailbreak was planned or facilitated from the outside. Instead, it appears that massive overcrowding is likely the primary cause – despite its maximum security status and capacity of 1050, Tanjung Gusta was holding nearly 2500 prisoners at the time of the riot, over double capacity. Prisons in Indonesia are routinely overcrowded, with estimates suggesting the penal system is currently running at least at 150% capacity and with money earmarked for improvements routinely embezzled by corrupt officials. Prison riots are common, with Indonesia having seen at least 7 major riots in the past decade, including a prior one at Tanjung Gusta in 2003.
Of particular concern is that 11 individuals convicted of terrorism offences were among the escapees. While some have been recaptured, up to 6 remain at large. This includes Fadli Sadama, a notorious jihadist terrorist. Sadama has been imprisoned since 2010, when he was arrested in Malaysia attempting to smuggle arms back into Indonesia in preparation for attacks on tourists. Sadama is an extreme hard liner and repeat offender, who was also imprisoned from 2003 – 2010 after the 2003 Marriot hotel bombing in Jakarta. Other terrorists currently on the run include some who have undergone militant training in Aceh province. Authorities currently suspect some of the men may attempt to slip into Malaysia. It is also possible they may head north for Aceh, the site of a bloody Islamist insurgency for several decades and a region that, while now broadly peaceful, continues to have some problems with militants.
Last week, on Tuesday, 11th June, a British national was kidnapped in the Indonesian province of Aceh before being released in the early hours of Thursday, 13th June. Malcolm Primrose, 61, is a senior drilling advisor for PT Medco E&P Malaka Oil Company and reportedly has 30 years of experience in Indonesia.
When on his way home after work on Tuesday, his car was stopped by four armed men on the road between the company’s drilling site and his home village. His driver, named only as Dania, was tied up while Primrose was kidnapped. No shots were fired. Following the incident, the local police authorities began a large scale manhunt with military support.
On Wednesday 12th June, the kidnappers contacted authorities demanding a £500,000 ransom from Primrose’s family. Primrose was found unharmed in the early hours of Thursday morning, having been released in a remote palm oil plantation. According to the authorities, no ransom was paid in this instance, reportedly because his family were unable to meet the demand. No individuals have been arrested, and the identity of the kidnappers remains unknown.
Aceh is a region at the northern tip of Sumatra, and Indonesia’s third wealthiest province by natural resources. From 1978 – 2005 a sustained and bloody insurgency took place in the province, led by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Aside from numerous historical and cultural grievances, such as a desire for autonomy and more conservative Islamic governance, one major issue centred on the exploitation of natural resources – mainly oil and gas. GAM’s leaders claimed that profits from natural resources were appropriated by the central Indonesian government and not reinvested fairly in Aceh itself.
Between 1989 – 1990, the Indonesian government launched a campaign to end the insurgency which led to the deaths of over 12’000 people, and was marred by numerous accusations of human rights abuses. A second Indonesian military campaign in 2003 – 2004 resulted in a decisive defeat for GAM.
This, combined with the devastation left by the 2004 tsunami, brought the 30 year conflict to an end. A peace deal in 2005 granted increased autonomy to Aceh in exchange for the separatists laying down arms. In elections since then, Aceh has consistently voted ex-GAM members into power, and enforced sharia law in the province.
While the issues that led to the insurgency have been largely resolved, there remain many individuals formerly active in the insurgent movement and a large volume of firearms in private ownership. There are also lingering economic difficulties in the province, with poverty amongst the highest in Indonesia.
Additionally, the position of some oil and gas operations remains contentious– US Company ExxonMobil was the subject of an attempted legal action in the United States based on accusations it collaborated with the Indonesian military by facilitating human rights abuses to protect its natural gas fields. Throughout Indonesia disputes between local communities, local government and resource companies are relatively commonplace, sometimes causing protests and disorder as a result. There are suggestions that the conservatism of Aceh’s populace may create increased tension with foreign companies.
Nevertheless, despite these lingering issues, last week’s incident is unusual as Aceh remains broadly peaceful with kidnapping of foreigners very rare. A French World Bank consultant was kidnapped in 2008 but released unharmed 24 hours later, while 5 Chinese workers were also kidnapped and released unharmed after 2 days in 2008. There have been no reported incidents since then.
The case took another interesting turn on Sunday, 16th June, when a source in the Indonesian National Police told the Jakarta Globe that Medco E&P had reportedly been the target of several attacks in the past weeks that it did not report to authorities. This included the shooting of company equipment and the attempted bombing of a workers barracks, neither of which caused injuries or significant damage. Nevertheless, and while reports are still vague, it suggests last week’s kidnapping of Primrose may be connected to a specific campaign against Medco instead of the result of a larger trend targeting foreign nationals in the region.
Foreign workers should be aware that the oil and gas industry has a contentious history in Aceh, and that the province as a whole remains impoverished and with a legacy of separatism and insurgency. However, while there is some cause for caution, kidnapping and other violent incidents remain rare, with currently no signs of a larger phenomenon of kidnap for ransom targeting foreigners emerging in Aceh.
Between 0400 – 0500 local time yesterday (10th June, 2013), unknown individuals successfully boarded a bulk carrier waiting for loading in Taboneo Anchorage, Indonesia. While on board, they remained undetected and succeeded in stealing stores from the ship and escaping.
This is the fourth similar occurrence in a little over a week throughout Indonesia, with two incidents taking place at Belawan anchorage on the 3rd and 8th of June and one at Muara Jawa anchorage also on the 3rd. While yesterday’s robbery was successful, the other three in the past week were foiled by the alertness of the ship’s duty crew.
These incidents demonstrate some common characteristics. The robbers used small boats to approach the ships in harbour, and then used either the anchor chain or ropes to board the vessel, with the apparent aim in all incidents of gaining access to the ship’s stores. Reports suggest that the individuals were usually also armed with knives or machetes, though in all of these incidents they fled when confronted by alert crew. While the authorities were notified, as of writing no individuals have been arrested in connection with these incidents.
Poor security at Indonesian ports has remained a recurring cause for concern in recent years. From 2004 onwards many Indonesian ports were placed on the U.S Coast Guard’s Port Security Advisory list as a result of failures in security practices, a ban only lifted in December last year following some American investment and training. However, despite these nominal improvements it is worth noting that the US Coast Guard’s primary concern was with poor counter-terrorist performance, not with piracy or armed robbery prevention.
In fact, reporting suggests there is a growing problem with security in Indonesian anchorages. The International Maritime Bureau strongly criticised Indonesia’s performance at the end of last year after a reported 81 occurrences of robbery – the highest following year on year increases since 2009. So far in 2013, reporting from numerous sources suggests the trend will continue to increase this year as well. Indeed, due to the problem of significant underreporting, the actual number of incidents is almost certainly much higher that officially recorded.
The reduction in piracy in South East Asia, particularly the Straits of Malacca, following extreme highs in 2003 is touted as a successful example of regional cooperation. However evidence shows that the problem of piracy throughout the region is now on the rise again and that many gains may be on the verge of reversal. In particular, the Indonesian National Security Sea Coordination Board has reportedly dismissed the IMB criticism of its performance against armed robbery in ports and argued the incidents are not a serious concern despite the dramatic increase in incidents.
Opportunistic armed robbery targeting vessels in Indonesian anchorages is now a problem that is steadily on the increase. Small groups of robbers seek to steal stores or cargo and are normally prevented by the actions of alert crew instead of port security authorities. These individuals are often armed, typically with knives and machetes but also reportedly with firearms in some past incidents. While they normally flee when confronted, some past incidents have involved hostage taking and violence.
Belawan port in particular is prone to these incidents, accounting for over an eighth of the total in 2012 and a similar level so far this year. Nevertheless, vessels in all anchorages throughout Indonesia should remain aware of the high levels of armed robbery against anchored ships and the need for vigilant security.
Asia – Pacific Summary
Incidents Occurring in April, 2013
There were 18 reported incidents in the Asia- Pacific region in the month of April, 2013. All of these occurred in the South East Asian region, with no incidents in North East Asia or the Pacific reported.
The most notable incidents appear to be the boarding of HUB 21 on the 24th of April, which involved violence directed at crewmembers, and the sighting of the ENG TOU 266 on the 22nd April, a stolen barge that is yet to have been recovered.
Most incidents involved armed robbery targeting ships anchored in ports throughout the SE Asian region, particularly in Indonesia.
Incident Occurrences by Country
30th April, Indonesia – KOH-I-NOOR boarded at Belawan port, robbed during customs operations.
29th April, Indonesia – CREST 2821 boarded 3.2 NM northwest of Pulau Batam, robbed.
27th April, Indonesia – FAIRCHAM MAVERICK boarded at Belawan port, robbed.
24th April, Indonesia – NADIYA MELISENDE boarded 16 NM north-northeast of Bintan Island, robbed.
24th April, Indonesia – HUB 21 boarded 53 NM north-northeast of Bintan Island. 15 pirates in 3 speedboats boarded vessel armed with knives and guns, took nine crew members hostage and assaulted some, before stealing cash and properties.
22nd April, Malaysia – ENG TOU 266 observed off Tanjung Ayam. This stolen barge was being towed by an unidentified tug, and has yet to be recovered.
23rd April, Indonesia – AD PHEONIX boarded 15 NM north-northeast of Bintan Island. Armed pirates boarded and robbed vessel.
19th April, Indonesia – SINGAPORE RIVER boarded at Dumai Anchorage. Armed robbers tied up crewmember at knifepoint, and escaped with stolen property.
17th April, Vietnam – IVS MAGPIE boarded at Cam Pha anchorage, attempted robbery.
13th April, Indonesia – DENSA JAGUAR boarded at Surabaya Port, attempted armed robbery.
9th April, Vietnam – WESTGATE boarded at Ho Chi Min Port, robbed.
6th April, Indonesia – MAERSK BERING boarded at Belawan port, robbed. Robbers later contacted shipping agent offering to sell back stolen items.
5th April, India – NEW CENTURY attempted boarding at Visakhapatnam Anchorage.
4th April, Indonesia – GARDEN CITY RIVER boarded at Dumai Anchorage, robbed.
3rd April, Indonesia – IVER EXACT attempted boarding at Dumai Anchorage.
3rd April, Indonesia – SHER E PUNJAB boarded at Adang Bay Anchorage, armed robbers took crewmembers hostage and stole stores.
2nd April, Vietnam – WEHR BLANKESE boarded at Ho Chi Min port, robbed.
1st April, Bangladesh – CRANE boarded at Chittagong anchorage, armed robbers fled before stealing anything.
1st April, Indian Ocean – CONDOR observed suspicious activity in form of a group of boats, sent crew to citadel and took evasive action. This incident is not included in above figures.