Malaysia maritime authorities have rescued a tanker and a barge which were hijacked in the latest South China Sea pirate attacks, according to officials.
A tanker carrying oil and gas worth 14 million ringgit ($4.6 million) was hijacked Thursday in the Straits of Singapore, said Syed Mohamad Fuzi Syed Hasan, a regional operations director with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Authorities located the Malaysian-registered MT Nautica Johor Bahru off the country’s east coast Friday after an alert from the shipping company that the vessel was no longer contactable.
Navy ships from Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia managed to intercept the vessel in Indonesian waters though the pirates, about 10 men armed with a pistol and machetes, got away in a speedboat, Syed Mohamad Fuzi said.
None of the 19 crew members was injured but their belongings were stolen. The tanker was on its way from peninsular Malaysia to Borneo island, he said.
Meanwhile, authorities also rescued a barge with two crew and palm oil worth eight million ringgit on board Thursday off southern Malaysia, said maritime enforcement agency regional commander Zulkifli Abu Bakar.
The barge was hijacked from a fishing boat in Indonesian waters Wednesday while traveling from Borneo to peninsular Malaysia, he said. The six armed pirates had left the barge, presumably to get another tug boat.
Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre, called on authorities and ships to be vigilant.
“We hope it’s not going to be a start again (of more such attacks). The authorities have to clamp down on these fast,” he told AFP. “In this region ships should maintain a strict anti-piracy watch.”
In June, the centre issued a warning for ships traversing the South China Sea bordering Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore following a sudden spur in attacks.
A Malaysian court last month sentenced six Indonesians to 10 years in jail and caning for trying to rob a merchant ship in September off its southern coast near Singapore.