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MT Joaquim and the continuing troubles off the Malaysian Peninsula

The recent hijacking of MT Joaquim on Saturday 8th August in the Malacca Strait has provided yet another timely reminder of the current risks facing seafarers in Southeast Asia, particularly in and around the Malaysian Peninsula. Sunday 9th August saw the recovery of the tanker by the Malaysian Enforcement Agency, approximately 14 NM off Tanjung Kling. The initial reports of the discovery suggest that 3,000 tonnes of fuel had been siphoned from the vessel before the power to the generator was cut. This incident is the fourth successful hijacking for the purpose of fuel theft in the last 18 months within the Malacca Strait, a trend that is congruent with the overall increase in incidents off the Malaysian Peninsula which has seen a total of 11 hijackings, 2 unsuccessful, so far in 2015.

Dryad Maritime provided an immediate incident alert for the hijacking and, in their analysis, highlighted potential contributing reasons behind the increase of fuel thefts in the area. Speaking of the trend, Senior Analyst Steve McKenzie explained: “The nature of these incidents within the Malacca Strait is very similar and mirrors those in the South China Sea which have been occurring at regular intervals during the same time frame. The last hijacking took place on June 11, when MT Orkim Harmony was taken 17 NM southwest of Pulau Aur in the South China Sea. Orikim Harmony was subsequently discovered off the coast of Cambodia by the combined efforts of several national security forces who arrested eight Indonesians suspected as the hijackers. Unfortunately five more had escaped after leaving the vessel earlier in an attempt to find a buyer for the vessel’s cargo. This failure to capture all of the gang responsible for the hijacking shows that, despite a high level of commitment to the search by the authorities, bringing all of those involved to justice remains extremely challenging. Because of this and other previous arrests, Dryad indicated that it was likely there would be a slowdown in the number of fuel theft incidents as the syndicates responsible for the crimes recruited new members and gave an original assessment of late July for the resumption of attacks.”

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This analysis focuses not only the on-going risk in Southeast Asia of maritime crime but also highlights the opportunity available to mitigate against the threat of hijackings and similar attacks. The organisation of the groups responsible can be tracked in much the same way as other, legitimate enterprises. By monitoring the events surrounding incidents of hijacking, not just the theft and recovery of vessels themselves, the future activities of the criminal groups perpetrating these attacks can be better predicted. With this understanding, the continued monitoring and expert analysis of events in and around the Southeast Asia region can provide seafarers with an effective defence against the threat of maritime crime. Dryad continues to assist in such an approach to tackling maritime crime that ensures capable and effective risk mitigation can be implemented to protect against threats at sea.