Asia’s pirates target marine fuel

While Somali piracy may have grabbed headlines over the past few years, experts say piracy is moving back to its former heartland, South East Asia.

Asia’s sea pirates target treasure of marine fuel
By Peter Shadbolt, CNN

(CNN) — The Malaysian-registered tanker Zafirah was exactly the kind of ship pirates love.

Slow, unguarded and steaming in the waters off Con Son Island near Vietnam as it labored under its cargo of 320 tons of marine gas oil (MGO), its low freeboard — the distance between its deck and the water — offered an open target.

Most likely operating from a creaky pursuit skiff with an over-powered engine, 11 pirates armed with machetes, long knives and pistols easily boarded the tanker on November 20 last year.

The nine crew of the Zafirah — five Myanmar nationals and four Indonesians — were forced into two life rafts, lowered into the water and left to their fate.

Next the pirates worked feverishly to change the identity of the vessel. The ship’s name was painted over on the stern and changed to MT Seahorse and the IMO (International Maritime Organization) number assigned to the hull altered.

With a new identity, the Sarawak-bound tanker changed direction; steaming towards what was likely a ready buyer for the tanker and its cargo.

Fortunately for the owners and crew of the Zafirah, good regional cooperation and information sharing led to the rescue of the crew and, after a 50-minute stand off with Vietnam’s Marine Police, the recovery of the vessel and the arrest of the pirates.

While piracy in Somalia in the waters off the Horn of Africa may have grabbed the headlines over the past few years, shipping industry experts say piracy is moving back to its former heartland in South East Asia.

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Source: CNN.

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