Hijacked tanker 'likely near Indonesian islands'

PUTRAJAYA - An oil tanker hijacked over the weekend off the south-eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia is most likely near Indonesia's Natuna and Anambas islands in the South China Sea.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said the MT Orkim Harmony could be in Vietnamese waters if it had headed north based on its last known speed and position.

MMEA's deputy director-general, Vice-Admiral Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, on Monday said: "If it had headed east, it would be in Kota Kinabalu waters. But until now, we have not been able to track it in Sabah and Sarawak waters.

"So, there is a big possibility that it is still in the South China Sea and nearby areas.

"The biggest possibility is that the ship is near the Natuna and Anambas islands."

Datuk Ahmad Puzi said the agency had contacted the Indonesian authorities to assist in the search, and seek permission to enter their waters.

He added that the missing tanker was likely a case of piracy for economic gains. The tanker was carrying 5,879 tonnes of RON95 fuel belonging to Petronas worth RM21 million (S$7.5 million).

Responding to media questions on whether the ship's 22-member crew had been taken hostage, Mr Ahmad Puzi said no ransom demand had been made as of Monday. The crew comprised 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and one Myanmar national.

Yesterday, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi suggested that the hijacking could be the work of insiders.

MT Orkim Harmony left Malacca last Wednesday and was scheduled to arrive in Kuantan the next day, but communication was lost. The MMEA was notified on Saturday. The ship's last known location was 30 nautical miles off the Johor port of Tanjung Sedili.

The area where the vessel disappeared - located within Malaysian waters and bordering Singapore and Indonesia - is a "hot spot" for piracy, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Shahidan Kassim.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'Hijacked tanker 'likely near Indonesian islands''. Print Edition | Subscribe