Vessel Hijacked in Southeast Asian Waters ReleasedJune 23, 2015 in Piracy
On 11 June, the owners of the Malaysia-flagged tanker ORKIM HARMONY lost contact with the vessel and reported the event to authorities, fearing the vessel had been hijacked. Over the following days, the vessel remained undetected until it was located on 18 June in Cambodian waters.
Military and marine police forces from Malaysia and Australia had been trailing the vessel, with Malaysian authorities indicating that they were in contact with eight of the pirates on board the vessel and that they were trying to negotiate a peaceful surrender.
On Friday, Malaysian navy and maritime officials disclosed that the hijacked oil tanker ORKIM HARMONY has been released by pirates, who fled in the ship’s rescue boat. According to officials, the vessel was now being escorted by the navy to Malaysia’s Kuantan Port. Malaysia’s Chief of Navy Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar indicated that after the tanker was hijacked, the pirates repainted the ship and changed the vessel’s name to Kim Harmon. One member of the 22 crewmembers on board the vessel, sustained injuries during the attack, suffering a gunshot wound to the thigh.
On 22 June, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) reported that five pirates involved in the hijacking of the ORKIM HARMONY remained at large. Last week, eight Indonesian pirates were apprehended by the Vietnam Coast Guard, just a day after the vessel was located. The group was reportedly trying to escape from navy ships and aircraft in the ORKIM HARMONY’s life boat. At a press conference on Monday, the MMEA’s deputy director-general, Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, disclosed that there were a total of 13 attackers involved in the hijacking, adding that the five pirates still at large are believed to have been separated from the group that was apprehended last week. According to the deputy director-general, they were responsible for manning a tugboat, which was first used to approach the vessel. The tugboat was found abandoned in Batam, Indonesia, over the weekend however there were no signs of the pirates. Ahmad Puzi has disclosed that all thirteen assailants are believed to be professional maritime criminals, additionally, he disclosed that those who are currently in custody have a high-degree of seafaring knowledge and criminal records for piracy. Malaysia is currently in the process of extraditing the eight assailants that were detained by Vietnamese authorities. The group is believed to be part of a larger piracy network that operates in Southeast Asian waters.
This hijacking is the second seizure of a tanker by pirates operating in Southeast Asia this month, and has raised concerns about further such attacks in the region. On 4 June, an oil tanker, ORKIM VICTORY, carrying diesel loaded from Petronas, was hijacked in the same area and on the same route. The vessel was later released by the hijackers after they siphoned off about 770 metric tonnes (6,000 barrels) of its cargo.