Missing Malaysian tanker carrying fuel worth $5.4 million

Missing Malaysian tanker carrying fuel worth $5.4 million
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian-registered tanker carrying nearly 7.5 million litres of RON95 petrol has gone missing in the waters off Johor's east coast.

Enforcement officials are now searching for the missing tanker, which became uncontactable some 31.5km (17 nautical miles) off Pulau Aur since 8.54pm last Thursday.

MT Orkim Harmony was sailing from Malacca to Kuantan when it disappeared, said Malaysia Mari­time Enforcement Agency (MMEA) operation director southern region Maritime First Admiral Ibrahim Mohamed, who added that MMEA received a report from the shipping company about the missing tanker at 6.30am last Friday.

At the current Malaysian pump price of RM2.05 per litre, the fuel that weighed some 6,000 tonnes is worth around RM15million (S$5.4 million). The tanker is staffed by 22 crew members - 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and a Myanmar national.

The search operation involved MMEA's boats - KM Mulia, KM Niah and a patrol boat - with assistance from the Royal Malaysian Navy's KD Laksamana Tan Pusmah and KD Ganyang.

The search area now covers 20,000 sq km from Tanjung Penawar in Kota Tinggi to Mersing as well as the maritime territories of Singa­pore and Indonesia.

Ibrahim said MMEA had forwarded the missing vessel report to Singapore's Police Coast Guard and Indonesia's maritime security bo­­dies - Badan SAR Nasional and Badan Keamanan Laut Republik Indonesia.

This is the second misfortune befalling Orkim Ship Management Sdn Bhd, owner of Orkim Harmony. Its Orkim Victory, also an oil tanker, was hijacked in the same area on June 4 by eight men armed with two hand guns and a parang, who locked the crew in a cabin.

According to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), the Orkim Victory hijacking occurred just off Pulau Aur as well, where the perpetrators towed the ship 22.6km (12.2 nautical miles) off the island before spending seven hours transferring 770 tonnes of diesel into another tan­ker.

"The perpetrators left Orkim Victory at approximately 10.4 nautical miles south-southwest of Pulau Aur after damaging all communication equipment, and robbing the crew's personal belongings," ReCAAP said.

News portal The Maritime Executive reported that Orkim Victory managed to find "its way back to a nearby port" and all its crew were safe.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had expressed his concern for Orkim Harmony and its crew.

"I am distressed by the news of a missing Malaysian-owned tanker. I pray for the safety of the 22-strong crew of which 16 are Malaysians. My thoughts are with their families. The Government will deploy our resources to locate it," he said on Facebook.

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