SIHANOUKVILLE (Khmer Times) – An oil tanker that disappeared after pirates hijacked it one week ago off the coast of Malaysia has reappeared in Cambodia’s coastal waters.
Australian and Malaysian surveillance aircraft located the tanker on Wednesday, one week after the June 11 hijacking, sources said.
In Phnom Penh, the Malaysian and Australian embassies declined to comment on the operation.
Here on the Coast, a Rear Admiral with the Royal Cambodia Navy at Ream Naval Base said he could not confirm Malaysian media reports that Cambodia gave the green light for a joint Malaysia-Australia operation to track, and possibly intercept, the tanker in Cambodian waters.
He said Cambodia’s Navy is not involved in the operation. He indicated that the incident is being monitored in Phnom Penh.
The oil-laded ship, Orkim Harmony, was hijacked while sailing between two ports in south Malaysia: from Malacca to Kuantan. It is about 300 kilometers from the Kuantan area to Cambodian waters.
The ship’s movement may have been slowed by a massive repainting job.
Malaysian Navy Chief, Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar, was quoted as saying the ship had been repainted from blue to black after being hijacked, and renamed the Kim Harmon. The 7,300 dead-weight tonne ship was carrying about $5.6 million worth of oil when it was hijacked, reports said.
Admiral Jaafar said photographs of the tanker were taken by a Malysian Navy Super Lynx helicopter that tailed the ship. “We’ve found the vessel and are tailing it from the air,” he said.
The hijacked ship had a crew of 22, comprising 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and one Myanmar national. There are at least eight pirates on board, according to Admiral Jaafar.
“They are armed with pistols and parangs. They speak with Indonesian accent,” he said on Twitter. The adminral said his men were in a “negotiation process” with the pirates to discuss their terms of surrender.
Rise in Piracy
Malaysian officials say they are fed up with recent hijackings that have raised concern about a rise of piracy in Southeast Asia’s seas. They said they will not allow pirates to get away with stealing the MT Orkim Harmony.
Earlier this month, Orkim Harmony’s sister vessel, the Orkim Victory, was seized by pirates who siphoned off about 6,000 barrels of diesel oil.
Souces say Malaysian authorities have requested clearance from the Cambodian government to allow their aircraft and Australian aircraft to pursue the vessel in Cambodian territorial waters.
The Australian Department of Defence would not confirm whether the Royal Australian Navy cruiser HMAS Perth, which left Sihanoukville last week, is taking part in the chase.