Vietnam Marine Police Foil Tanker Hijacking

Up to 11 pirates armed with knives and pistols hijacked a small Malaysian chemical tanker off the coast of Vietnam, but were later captured by Vietnamese marine police, according to the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.

Recaap, an information-sharing centre on piracy based in Singapore, said that the pirates were after the vessel’s marine fuel oil and hijacked the vessel to sell the bunkers illegally in Vietnam’s ports.

The incident began last Monday, when EA Marine Services, owner of 1991-built, 1,125 dwt Zafirah, lost radio contact with the vessel.

On Wednesday, a Vietnamese fishing vessel came across the ship’s nine crew, who had been forced off the ship.

The crew, all unhurt, were landed on Vietnam the same day.

Vietnamese marine police located Zafirah about 35 miles southeast of Vung Tung on Thursday and at 1600 hrs boarded the ship.

By the time of the raid, the pirates had renamed the ship MD Feahorse and changed the International Maritime Organization number.

Recaap has reported an increase in illegal siphoning of fuel and marine gas oil from tankers in recent months, with incidents in September and November.

The Zafirah incident, however, is the first hijacking to sell fuel oil after forcing the crew overboard and renaming the ship to take place this year.

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