KUALA LUMPUR - In a startling turn of events, the pirates holding the MT Orkim Harmony oil tanker jumped ship and escaped, said the Royal Malaysian Navy.
Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar said that the eight pirates had sailed off on a rescue boat from the oil tanker on Thursday night, leaving behind the 22 crew members on the vessel, who were reportedly unharmed.
He said the tanker would be pulled back to Kuantan port.
There were four Navy ships and two Super Lynx helicopters tailing the ship on Thursday night.
The vessel, first reported to be adrift in Cambodian waters, suddenly changed course to the east towards Natuna Island, Indonesia.
Admiral Abdul Aziz told The Star on Friday that the Navy would be issuing a statement soon.
He also said in a tweet that the pirates fled the ship at around 8.15-8.30pm, Thursday.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said it was notified at 6.30am the next day that the tanker, carrying 6,000 tonnes of petrol worth RM21mil (S$7.5 million), was missing.
Assets from the RMN, MMEA and Royal Malaysian Air Force were sent to hunt for it.
The cargo belongs to Petronas while the ship's owner is Magna Meridian Sdn Bhd.
Authorities confirmed that MT Orkim Harmony had been repainted and renamed 'Kim Harmon'.