A small oil tanker has gone missing off the southeast coast of Malaysia, near Singapore, over the weekend in what could be the second case of piracy this month, maritime officials said on Monday.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said the 7,300 deadweight tonne Orkim Harmony disappeared about 30 nautical miles from the port of Tanjung Sedili. The ship was carrying nearly 48,000 barrels of gasoline.
“Orkim Sdn Bhd regretfully confirms the report issued by Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency that the Company has lost contact with its vessel Orkim Harmony early morning 12 June,” the ship’s owner said in a statement.
“Orkim Harmony was on her laden passage from Malacca to the Port of Kuantan, having departed on 10 June 2015 at 0930 hours (local time) and originally expected to arrive at the Port of Kuantan on 12 June 2015 also at 0930 hours,” the shipper said.
The ship's last known position was south-west of Pulau Aur, Mersing in Malaysian waters, Orkim said. “She was carrying 22 crew members consisting of 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and one Myanmar national,” it added.
Orkim has informed family members of the crew set up a 24-hour hotline to respond to queries by families. The company said it was working with Malaysian search and rescue teams that had been activated to find the Orkim Harmony.
Earlier this month, the 7,100 ton oil tanker Orkim Victory, sailing to Kuantan from Malacca, was hijacked on June 4th in the same area by an armed speedboat.
“The perpetrators were armed with two hand guns and one machete. They threatened the crew (comprising eight Malaysians, seven Indonesians and three Myanmar nationals) and reportedly assaulted them, though no injuries were reported,” Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) said in a statement.
“The perpetrators subsequently brought Orkim Victory to another location, and siphoned off 770 tonnes (about 6,000 barrels) of automotive diesel oil,” it added. The Orkim Victory has since been released. That vessel too was owned by Orkim, meaning the company appears to be specifically targeted.
Shippers have reported a rise in such hijackings recently but that because of excess oil capacity and strong insurance competition, shipping rates have been unaffected. Insurance companies usually dramatically increase rates if there is threat of piracy, which shippers must then raise rates as well.