Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pirated Oil Tanker Found as Mystery Disappearance Explained

Meanwhile Body Recovered from Exploded Vessel
Shipping News Feature

THAILAND – JAPAN – The missing oil tanker Orapin 4 has been found, with her crew unharmed, after she was hijacked by pirates on her way to Indonesia from Singapore. This news comes as Japanese authorities release a statement confirming that they have found the body of the Captain who disappeared after his own vessel exploded a few miles away from Himeji Port last Thursday, May 29.

Divers from the Japanese Coast Guard found the body of 64 year old Captain Masaichi Ando in the Shoko Maru’s cargo hold on Saturday morning, approximately 50 hours after the chemical tanker exploded. Although the vessel’s seven other crew members were rescued, one remains in a critical condition due to the severity of his burns. According to a preliminary investigation, the fire and the subsequent explosion and foundering were triggered by a grinder that, at the time, was being used to remove rust in an oil storage tank.

The Thai Royal Navy has said that the Orapin 4 has now been found with all her crew safely onboard after they were hijacked by pirates whilst transiting through the Singapore Strait. According to the Thai authorities, a group of 10 pirates, armed with guns and knives, boarded the vessel and tied up the 14 strong crew. They then set about destroying the communication systems and painting over the name to read Rapi instead of Orapin 4, but left the IMO number visible. Her cargo of 3 million litres of marine diesel had been siphoned off and she was left with enough fuel to reach Sriracha Port in Thailand. Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer with Dryad Maritime, a security company which specialises in protecting vessels in the region, commented:

“This latest hijack is clearly not an isolated event and it is likely that such crime will continue to be perpetrated to feed the black market. The unfortunate victims we have seen tend to be small, local product tankers, mainly working out of Singapore, with no obvious threat of this type of crime against larger Supertankers transiting through the area. The key to defeating the criminal gangs involved lies in comprehensive reporting of all such incidents to the IMB and appropriate regional authorities, alongside the sharing of information with local law enforcement. This kind of threat ultimately needs to be tackled at the point of criminal origin ashore. Once in control of a vessel, it’s just too late.”

Photo: The Shoku Maru burning out before sinking.