Concern growing over a tug towing a barge missing in South East Asia

  • 24 December 2004

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is concerned about the safety of the crew and their vessels following the recent disappearance of two ships in South East Asia. Presumed to be attacked by pirates, the tug “Christian” and barge “Flora” were en route from the Philippines to Kota Baru, Banjarmasin, Indonesia.

The last known position of these two vessels was 05:34N – 119:22E, reported 14 December 2004.

“This most recent attack is part of a disturbing trend. In 2004 alone there have been 23 attacks aimed at hijacking tugs and barges in South East Asia,” said IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan. “In many of these cases, the crew have been abducted or abandoned after hijackers have taken control of the vessels.”

A recent incident in the Malacca Strait highlights the dangers the “Christian” and “Flora” may be facing. On 15 December 2004, 20 pirates armed with machine guns, operating from two fishing boats, fired upon the tug “Ena Sovereign”. The attackers boarded the vessel, kidnapped the master and chief engineer, and took all the ship’s documents, property and crew belongings before escaping. The “Ena Sovereign” was towing a barge at the northern end of the Malacca Strait midway between the coasts of Indonesia’s troubled Aceh province and Malaysia.

Captain Mukundan added: “Because they travel at slow speeds, tugs and barges are easy targets for pirates. Armed criminal gangs often approach in multiple speedboats and easily board and take over the slower ships. Apart from stealing the property on board, the pirates have also resorted to kidnapping the crew and demanding a ransom for their release.”

Research conducted by the IMB indicates cause for concern, as there is a continued pattern of hijacking, theft and abductions in this region.

Anyone with more information about the “Christian” or the “Flora” are asked to immediately contact the Kuala Lumpur based IMB Piracy Reporting Centre’s 24 hour Anti-piracy Help Line: 603 2031 0014 (24 Hours).

A full description of the missing vessels is as follows:

Old tyres are fitted all around hull.

Note, the tug and the barge could be travelling under changed names, colours and/or flags.