Deputy director-general Vice-Admiral Maritime Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar says the highest possibility is that the tanker was robbed by pirates
A spokesman for the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) believes the missing tanker MT Orkim Harmony was most likely robbed by bunker pirates who are still trying to unload the vessels' cargo, local media reports.
Deputy director-general Vice-Admiral Maritime Datuk Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar voiced the possibility Monday during a press conference while discussing the disappearance of the Malaysian-registered vessel, which was understood to be carrying 6,000 metric tonnes of Petronas-owned RON95 fuel worth RM21 million ($5.5 million) when it went missing on June 11.
"We believe that the robbers are still looking for the logistics to transfer the oil to their client," said Ahmad Puzi, adding that he thought it would be too risky for the fuel to be transfered to another vessel due to its highly flammable nature.
"If the tanker leaked, the crew members should have managed to make an emergency call. If it capsized or met with an accident, there must be some oil spills. However, there are no such signs."
Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
The highest possibility right now is that the tanker was robbed by pirates.
It was noted that there has also been no demands made for a ransom.
"So, the highest possibility right now is that the tanker was robbed by pirates," Ahmad Puzi concluded.
MT Orkim Harmony, which is owned by Magna Meridian Sdn Bhd, was sailing with 22 crewmen from Malacca to Kuantan and was equipped with communication tools and a positioning system.
It is understood that the tanker's fuel could last up to 22 days.
A search and rescue operation involving 1,500 personnel from MMEA and the Royal Malaysian Navy along with 10 vessels, three boats, and an aircraft, is currently being conducted over a geographical range of 50,000 square kilometres.
Possible locations for the vessel were said to be in the Vietnam or Sabah waters, Pontianak (Kalimantan), or Tanjong Priok near Jakarta.
Ahmad Puzi also theorised that the tanker could be hidden off Anambas and Natuna islands (Indonesia).
Earlier this month Orkim Harmony's sister vessel, Orkim Victory, was also targeted by bunker pirates while transiting the same area, eight nm off the coast of Pu Aur.