KUALA LUMPUR: Pirate attacks in South-East Asia this year, particularly in Malaysian waters, is the highest it has ever been in the last half-decade, said an anti-piracy watchdog.
The Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) added that the number of piracy incidents in the Malacca Strait had doubled in the first three months of this year.
When the South China Sea is included, there were 25 incidents of piracy and robberies between January to March, ReCAAP said.
In its most recent report, ReCAAP said piracy in South-East Asia had jumped 19 per cent since April, with the Malacca Strait being the hottest spot.
It said in another report that assailants usually come in the form of a large group armed with guns or parang, and would overpower the crew before tying them or locking them up in the cabin.
"In majority of the reported incidents, the pirates boarded the tankers while at sea, took over control of the tankers, and transferred the oil/fuel to another tanker or barge that would come alongside," it said in the report.
ReCAAP also reported that in the last two weeks, two Malaysian oil tankers were hijacked by pirates near Pulau Aur, Johor.
On June 4, Orkim Victory was carrying diesel from Kuantan to Malacca went it was robbed near Pulau Aur.
Observers believe that Orkim Harmony - another vessel owned by the same company - which has remained uncontactable since Thursday, has been hijacked as well.
In May, two oil tankers were attacked by armed men and a total of 4,546 metric tonnes of fuel and oil were siphoned off from the Ocean Energy near Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan, and the Oriental Glory near Bruit Island in Sarawak.
Another anti-piracy group, Oceans Beyond Piracy, said in its 2014 report that piracy in South-East Asia made up 73 per cent of all sea robbery incidents in the world last year - with the Malacca Strait making up over half of those cases.
Oceans Beyond Piracy also said perpetrators in this region had a tendency to show "blatant disregard" for the welfare of their victims, having injured people in nearly a third of the cases.