Once common in West Africa, fuel thefts are on the rise in Indonesia
Pirate thefts of tanker cargoes off Indonesia have risen dramatically over the past year, and some analysts warn the situation could worsen, Reuters reports.
In 2013, while piracy attacks declined worldwide to 264 incidents, 106 of the attacks took place in Indonesia, a seven-fold increase from five years before.
The number of incidents rose toward the end of the year, which German insurer Allianz warned could indicate "a potential for such attacks to escalate into a more organized piracy model unless they are controlled."
The current attacks are seen as more sophisticated than robberies that became common in the Malacca Strait in the late 1990s.
"Off West Africa, tankers have always been an attractive target for pirates," said Sven Gerhard, head of hull and marine liabilities for Allianz.
He added that Indonesian pirates may be imitating that model, which thrives on the high, consistent demand for fuel oil and diesel as well as the relative ease of moving the cargoes from a hijacked vessel to another ship.
"Ship-to-ship onloading and offloading of fuel oil is not unusual," he said.
Sven Gerhard, Head of Hull and Marine Liabilities, Allianz
Off West Africa, tankers have always been an attractive target for pirates
"Many vessels are fuelled by special bunker tankers whilst moored."
One former pirate, nicknamed Aga, told Reuters that three main pirate gangs are now active in the area, with local boatmen recruited to the groups for their knowledge of the local waters.
"Stealing fuel is a recent trend. It never happened in my time," Aga said.
"Our targets were only money, the safe, or anything valuable on the ship."
He said the pirates use websites like marinetraffic.com, as well as informants within shipping companies and crews, to plan their attacks.
In one recent attack, pirates stole marine gas oil (MGO) cargoes from a tanker they hijacked off Malaysia on July 4.