Bunker Pirates Hijack Tanker for its MGO

Friday November 23, 2012

A Malaysia-registered tanker carrying 320,173 litres of marine gas oil has been set free after it was hijacked Monday near Con Son Island, Vietnam, a report today by piracy watchdog ReCAAP has said.

ReCAAP said that it had assessed from various sources that the 11 pirates armed with long knives and pistols had targeted Zafirah for its MGO cargo, and that they might have been aiming to sell the fuel illegally in Vietnam.

The crew had been abandoned in a life raft and on November 21, 2012 they were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel, with the report saying the five Myanmar nationals and four Indonesians were found in good condition.

Zafirah, which has been renamed MD FEAHORSE and had its IMO number changed, was found the following day, and in an operation by the Vietnam Marine Police Special Task Force the vessel was boarded and all 11 pirates were said to have been apprehended.

While the report did not say whether any fuel had been taken from the vessel, ReCAAP said there has been a notable increase in activities involving illegal siphoning of bunkers from tankers in recent months.

In September the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said it foiled an attempt to syphon off and sell bunker fuel from Scorpio to Sea Jade southwest of Tanjung Piai, Malaysia, with ReCAAP saying today that 750 metric tonnes (mt) of fuel had been transferred in that incident.

ReCAAP also said that on November 11, 2012, about 80 mt of marine gas oil was siphoned from Yunita to an unknown barge.

In October gas oil was also stolen from a Liberian-flagged tanker off Africa's west coast, and bunkers worth some $400,000 were stolen from a bunker tanker after it was hijacked in East Malaysia earlier this month.