Thai tanker looted in first oil theft piracy this year

While under way in the South China Sea, C P 41 was boarded by pirates who stole 1.5 million litres of gasoil.

Credit: Geir Vinnes

In the first case of oil cargo theft-related piracy this year, Thailand-registered chemical/oil products tanker, C P 41 was looted while sailing in the South China Sea, 25 n miles off Malaysia’s Kuantan.

This could mean the return of hijacking ships for oil cargo theft, which had fallen to multiyear lows last year. Reflecting the fall in international oil prices, there were just three such incidents in 2016, from a peak of 15 incidents in 2014 and 12 in 2015, according to data from the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre (ISC) in January. In its latest report dated 28 June, ReCAAP ISC said that it last received reports of such incidents in October 2016.

This is a departure from the violent nature of recent piracy incidents, where the number of kidnapping incidents reached a 10-year high in 2016. In May, ReCAAP ISC and the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warned ships sailing in the region to avoid the Sulu-Celebes Sea if possible.

In the latest incident, the 4,023-dwt tanker was enroute from Singapore to Songkhla, Thailand, when it was boarded by six armed pirates in a speed boat on 23 June at 2100 h local time. They then locked the crew in the engine room.

The pirates spoke Bahasa, which is used in Malaysia as well as the neighbouring Indonesia. They instructed the ship’s engineer to operate the pump and transferred an estimated 1.5 million litres of diesel to their ship.

The pirates eventually released the entire crew at 0420 h on 24 June, but not before damaging the vessel’s communication equipment.

According to the IMB, the pirates also stole the crew’s personal belongings and the ship’s properties before escaping.

ReCAAP ISC noted in its report that the master and crew reported the incident to the company, which reported to the Thailand Maritime Enforcement Co-ordination Centre (MECC). According to data from IHS Maritime Sea-web, the vessel is registered to Thailand-incorporated C&P Co Ltd.

In turn, Thailand MECC informed the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA). An investigation team boarded the vessel when it arrived at Songkhla port in Thailand on 26 June.

Contact Simin Ngai at and follow her on Twitter: @SiminNgai

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