Southeast Asia Vessel Hijackings are Increasing and Becoming DeadlierDecember 10, 2014 in Piracy
The killing of a crewmember on board a Vietnamese tanker by pirates earlier this week has marked a deadly escalation in hijackings in waters in Southeast Asia. The attack further highlights the growing threat of piracy in Southeast Asian waters and the fact that the region has developed into the new global hotspot for piracy.
On Sunday, crewmember Tran Duc Dat, 34, was shot in the forehead after pirates boarded the VP Asphalt 2, owned by VP Petrochemical Transport Co in Haiphong. According to the Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre, the vessel, which had just left Singapore, was en route to Vietnam. It was attacked at 4:30 AM local time, 60 nautical miles from Singapore waters near Aur island off southern Johor state. The attack occurred in the vicinity where the Vietnamese ship Sunrise 689 was attacked in October. According to sources, the sixteen crewmembers on board the VP Asphalt 2 were tied up as the pirates searched the ship. The hijackers fled with only personal belongings of the crewmembers. The vessel was carrying 2,300 metric tones of liquid asphalt and it is believed that the ship was likely targeted by the pirates in the belief that it was carrying oil products. The tanker has since returned to Singapore and an investigation into the incident is currently underway.
While Sunday’s killing of a crewmember is the first such incident to occur in Malaysian waters in almost two years, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has on previous occasions warned about the growing threat of piracy in Southeast Asia, with officials reporting in October that the area accounted for a majority of piracy incidents reported globally. Ship hijackings in waters in Southeast Asia have been on the rise in recent months; with the IMB reporting at least twelve such attacks this year. According to Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, “it appears groups or syndicates are targeting gas-oil,” adding “they are making a lot of money off of it. They are getting away with it. As long as there is no deterrent, they will continue to hijack ships.”
According to the IMB, in the first three quarters of 2014, there were 103 pirate attacks in Southeast Asia, out of 178 that occurred globally. The IMB has warned that “gangs of thieves armed with knives and guns” are increasingly attacking small tankers carrying either oil or diesel and hijacking them to steal the cargo. According to Mr Choong, pirates can earn US $2 million or more for each hijacked tanker that is carrying oil products.