Malaysia seizes Vietnamese oil tanker that was tracked in North Korea

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said a team of officers boarded the tanker on Dec 8 after it was found anchored without authorisation just off the state of Johor.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said a team of officers boarded the tanker on Dec 8 after it was found anchored without authorisation just off the state of Johor.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM AGENSI PENGUATKUASAAN MARITIM MALAYSIA/FACEBOOK

KUALA LUMPUR/SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - A Vietnamese oil tanker which Reuters reported visited North Korea in February has been seized by Malaysia after it was found adrift off the Malaysian coast, maritime agency officials said.

Refinitiv shipping data quoted by Reuters showed the Viet Tin 01 arrived just outside the harbour of Nampo on North Korea's western coast on Feb 25 carrying 2,000 tonnes of gasoline, shortly before talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi.

It was not clear whether the tanker unloaded cargo at Nampo. Under sanctions imposed by the United Nations, North Korea is heavily restricted in its imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said a team of officers boarded the tanker on Sunday after it was found anchored without authorisation just off the southern Malaysian state of Johor.

"Earlier, the agency's vessel and boat assets... assigned to the site had attempted to contact the tanker via radio and speakers, but no response was received and the vessel was suspected to have been abandoned," Johor MMEA director Aminuddin Abdul Rashid said in a statement posted on the agency's Facebook page.

The agency said the only person aboard the tanker was its 61-year-old Vietnamese chief engineer, who said the vessel had drifted from its original position.

The crew member was detained for further investigations, Aminuddin said, but did not say whether the vessel was being investigated for its links to North Korea.

An MMEA spokesman said the authorities were waiting for the tanker's owners to claim it. He declined to further comment.

Calls to Ho Chi Minh City-based Viet Trust Shipping Corp., the registered owner of the Viet Tin 01, went unanswered.

Since February, the tanker has parked near China's coastline, first at the port of Shidao and then Shanghai, before stopping to transmit location data from its automatic identification system (AIS) between March 20 and July 9, shipping data showed.

On July 9, the tanker made a brief stop in Taiwan's Kaohsiung port before heading towards waters in south-east Malaysia where it arrived on July 20 and remained until at least Aug 21, the data showed.

The Viet Tin 01 last transmitted AIS location data on Aug 21.