Piracy returns to the Malacca Strait, RI Navy increases patrols Fadli, The Jakarta Post,
6 junio, 2014
Piracy returns to the Malacca
Strait, RI Navy increases
The Malacca strait, situated in South East Asia between Indonesia and Malaysia is widely known as a hot-spot for armed hijacking at sea carried out by local pirates. Piracy in the area is known to have taken place for centuries, as the Malacca Strait have traditionally been a crucial waterway for ships and tankers en route to Europe/Middle East connecting it with Singapore and other important shipping hubs in Asia.
Over the last few years, the rate of successful pirate hijackings have remained low, due to joint efforts by affected countries and increasing surveillance at sea. Collective measures have been imposed by various countries, and both Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have deployed permanent military personnel to safeguard commercial traffic along the strait.
However, on the 27th of May oil tanker MT Orapin 4 registered in Thailand was hijacked en route from Singapore to Indonesia, loaded with diesel fuel. Marine vessels from the Indonesian Navy were deployed immediately, as the tanker went missing north of Batam Island, an area infamous for its number of piracy incidents.
The Indonesian coast guard said in an offical statement “The Navy received information on the piracy case, and we have taken measures to investigate. So far we have found no trace [of the ship]”
Commander General Susmuto from the Indonesian Navy, added on the 31st of May “Naval ships and aircraft were deployed to search for the tanker today”
At that point, there was confusion about the possible whereabouts of MT Orapin 4. Different news agencies picked up various rumours, and it was not until Sunday morning when Associated Press, released a statement stating that the tanker had just been released by pirates.
“Pirates hijacked and stole the tanker’s oil cargo onboard and destroyed the communication equipment. The crew and vessel are safe,”, was the offical response given by Noel Chong, who coordinates the piracy message boards from their Kuala Lumpur head office.
Experts believe the incident was an isolated incident, however BBC reported on a similar case one month earlier when a cargo ship was hijacked and pirates abducted three crew members. The ship was on its way from Singapore to Myanmar, and according to Malaysian police commander Abdul Rahim Abdullah, more than 3 million litres of diesel were transferred over in two adjoining boats.
However, the two incidents mentioned above just represent a fraction of the total hijackings, as numbers are deflated or incidents never registered. Officially the Malaccan Strait numbers around 20 piracy hijackings a year, however some researchers believe the number to be way higher as many small scale operations never reach global news stands.
Although, measures have been stepped up as a response to the list of new incidents, Singapore is expressing to further consolidate the efforts in the area by deploying new naval vessels.
However, intensifying the surveillance of the Malacca Strait might not be enough, given that the strait and its geographical complexity plus the amount of traffic passing through the strait, always leave room for pirates to hide in inlets or to seek refuge onshore.