Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB stated: “Following the tsunami of 26 December, there was a welcome decrease in piracy in the region. However, in the past two weeks there have been at least three violent attacks in these waters.”
IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur received the details of the attacks shortly after they occurred.
The first attack occurred on 28 February, when a tug towing a barge carrying coal for Lumut Power Station was attacked off the port of Penang. A gang of pirates abducted the captain and chief officer and held them for ransom.
In the second incident, on 12 March, a fully laden oil tanker en route from Samarinda to Belawan in Indonesia was attacked by 35 armed pirates. The captain and chief engineer were kidnapped and are still missing. The vessel proceeded to Dumai, Indonesia.
At approximately 1830 hours on 14 March, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre received a report of the third attack in the Malacca Straits in a fortnight. Idaten, a Japanese tug, had been attacked roughly 70 miles South West of Penang while towing Kuroshio, a construction barge, from Batam, Indonesia to Myanmar.
Armed pirates arrived in three fishing boats, abducted one Filipino and two Japanese crew members and transferred them to one of the fishing boats. The whereabouts of the abductees is still unknown. The remaining 11 members of the tug crew and 154 of the barge crew were not abducted and are safe. The Royal Malaysian Police sent patrol boats to the region and the tug and barge are now proceeding under police escort to Penang.
Captain Mukundan commented: “The recent upsurge of violence against vessels in the Malacca Straits is a matter of great concern. It is vital that action be taken by law enforcement agencies to identify the perpetrators of these attacks and have them punished under law. The abduction of crew members in this manner is a reprehensible act and should not be allowed to continue.”