Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pirates hijack MISC tanker

Thursday August 21, 2008 THESTAR

Pirates hijack MISC tanker


PETALING JAYA:The whereabouts of 29 Malaysians and 10 Filipinos on an MISC Bhd tankers remains unknown since the vessel was hijacked by heavily-armed pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Tuesday.

MISC, the world’s largest single owner and operator of liquefied natural gas tankers, confirmed that its 32,025 dead-weight-tonne chemical tanker Bunga Melati Dua which carried palm oil was hijacked by pirates at 10.09pm local time off the coast of Somalia.

The fully-laden vessel was heading for Rotterdam from Dumai, Sumatra, at the time of the incident.

“All authorities have been notified and we are working closely to render the necessary assistance and support,” MISC said in a statement.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB)'s Piracy Reporting Centre regional head Noel Choong told The Star that based on “common case scenario” in the area, the pirates would most probably demand ransom for the release of the vessel and crew.

IMB received a distress call late Tuesday and immediately notified a naval ship patrolling the area to intercept the pirates.

“But the pirates had cut all modes of communication and are suspected to have entered Somali waters.

“Pirates in the area usually use firearms such as AK-47, machine-guns and grenade launchers,” he said.

He said this was the fourth piracy case in the same area in a month and IMB called on the United Nations (UN) and the international community to take necessary action to curb the crime.

The UN Security Council has voted to allow international warships to enter Somali waters.

“But, the warships are only allowed to monitor maritime crime such as piracy. They cannot take any physical action,” he said.

The piracy cases in the past month involved a bulk carrier, a tugboat and a general cargo vessel.

Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa of about 3,025km and is near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

The IMB cautioned all vessels transiting the area to take additional precautionary measures.

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