Thai tanker attack prompts security advisory

Portsmouth: The latest report of a tanker hijack in Southeast Asia has prompted the UK’s maritime operations firm Dryad Maritime to issue an advisory to its shipping clients, on the basis that the crime follows a pattern, which has seen up to six such attacks, over the last nine months.

The advisory comes in the wake of the pirate attack on the Thai-owned Orapin 4 tanker. The ship was ransacked by pirates at the end of last month.

Dryad’s senior analyst, Stephen McKenzie, expressed concern over the under reporting of such crimes, detailing the similarities between a number of other incidents.

“We believe that this type of organised crime is far more prevalent than reporting would suggest,” he said. “It is clearly well organised and executed, orchestrated by criminal gangs who are involved in the marine fuel black market across Asia.  Although we don’t yet know the full details of what happened on Orapin 4, it is likely that the vessel has been the victim of one of these gangs. In previous incidents, crew members have reported bunker barges and other small tankers waiting to transfer fuel at predetermined rendezvous sites. The hijackers clearly have knowledge of the operation of radio and satellite communications, along with some proficiency in handling fuel lines other ships’ equipment.  Violence is often used against crew members and vessels are often ransacked for cash, personal belongings and portable electrical equipment before the criminals depart.  This might suggest that those involved in the hijack are not particularly well paid for their part in the operation.”

Dryad Maritime continues to remind operators and masters of product tankers in the region to keep information on vessel movements and cargoes strictly to those that need to know, while recognising that insider information may be at the heart of criminal planning. They also believe that the threat is unlikely to be dealt with in the near term.

“This latest hijack is clearly not an isolated event and it is likely that such crime will continue to be perpetrated to feed the black market,” said Dryad’s coo, Ian Millen. Victims tend to be small, local product tankers, mainly working out of Singapore, Millen noted.

“The key to defeating the criminal gangs involved lies in comprehensive reporting of all such incidents to the IMB and appropriate regional authorities, alongside the sharing of information with local law enforcement.  This kind of threat ultimately needs to be tackled at the point of criminal origin ashore.  Once in control of a vessel, it’s just too late,” Millen added.  [04/06/14]


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