PENGERANG - The group of pirates that seized 700,000 litres of diesel from a tanker off Tanjung Sedili are believed to be Indonesians, based on their accent.
The conclusion was drawn following initial investigations and statements recorded from the 13 Thai crew and Indonesian captain of the tanker.
"The crew also told us that the pirates had tied them up with raffia string before confining them in a room," said Maritime Capt Ibrahim Mohamed, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency's (MMEA) southern region operations director.
He said MMEA personnel also found a machete sheath and a firearm magazine left on the tanker after the incident. None of the crew were injured by the pirates.
The Honduras-registered oil tanker, MT Ai Maru, was ferrying the diesel worth RM1.4mil from Cambodia to Singapore when it was attacked some 31 nautical miles off Tanjung Sedili here at about 8pm on Saturday.
Capt Ibrahim could not confirm if the heist was an inside job, adding that investigations were still ongoing.
He said the MMEA usually conducted three routine patrols in the area but would beef up security following the incident, which was the third in the first half of this year.
"We have noticed that pirates are now operating in the eastern waters off Pengerang compared to previously where they were in the western parts," he said.
He said the number of piracy cases had gone down since 2010 when there were 16 recorded and 2011 when there were 20.
"We stepped up our efforts and the number of cases gradually dropped, starting from 2012 when about six cases were recorded per year on average," he said.
If apprehended, the pirates would be charged under Section 395 of the Penal Code, which provides for a maximum jail term of 20 years and whipping.