PETALING JAYA - A Malaysian-flagged oil tanker was hijacked off the east coast.
An International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) report said armed men boarded the ship at a spot 14km southwest of Pulau Aur near Mersing on Thursday.
"They took all crew members as hostages, altered the ship's course and transferred the oil," the Commercial Crime Services report said.
Before leaving, the pirates stole items belonging to the ship and its crew, and damaged its radios. The ship later sailed to a safe port.
A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) official confirmed the hijacking and identified the ship as the Orkim Victory.
"The ship safely arrived in Kuantan at 7pm Thursday," MMEA C3i (Command, Control, Communication and Information) director Capt Hamid Mohd Amin told The Star.
Hamid said the ship's 18 crew members were safe and that the pirates fled to Pulau Matek in the Anambas Islands region in Indonesia and that the Indonesian Coast Guard were told of the hijacking. He added that MMEA was investigating the case.
Maritime news portal IHS Maritime 360 said the ship was sailing from Sungai Udang in Malacca to Kuantan before the hijacking.
According to an April 21 ICC report, more than half of piracy and armed robbery incidents between January and March took place in ASEAN waters.
An ICC piracy and armed robbery map showed that three other incidents, including two hijackings, took place in waters off Mersing's coast this year.
MMEA's southern region public relation officer Lt Mohd Sufian Anuar said the agency had been deploying more of it assets to beef up patrols.
He said hijacking cases in the state increased by 25 per cent to 30 per cent over the past three years.
"We had about six hijack cases in 2013, 10 were recorded in 2014 and two cases this year, most of which involved oil tankers," he said.
Lt Mohd Sufian said that the agency had been increasing patrols especially around the borders of Thailand and Indonesia.
"We are using more assets to increase patrols especially at hotspots for hijackings, including Pengerang in Kota Tinggi and Pulau Aur in Mersing.
"We also launched an operation early this year, which led to the arrest of a group of pirates who had tried to hijack a vessel carrying 700 tonnes of marine fuel oil in January."