Five pirates involved in the hijacking of the Orkim Harmony are still at large, according to the latest reports from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
The 7,301 dwt Orkim Harmony and her crew were seized by pirates on June 11 and held for one week. The stolen vessel was located last Thursday and eight Indonesian pirates were apprehended the next day by the Vietnam Coast Guard. The group was reportedly trying to escape from navy ships and aircraft in the Orkim Harmony’s life boat.
However, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) deputy director-general Ahmad Puzi Ab Kahar told a press conference June 22, that there were a total of 13 attackers involved in the hijacking.
The five pirates still at large are believed to have been separated from the group apprehended last week. They were responsible for manning a tugboat, which was first used to approach the Orkim Harmony. The tugboat was found abandoned in Batam, Indonesia over the weekend, however there were no signs of the pirates.
Ahmad Puzi said that all 13 assailants are believed to be professional maritime criminals based on advanced communication equipment as well as large amount of money found in their possession. Additionally, the pirates in custody have a high-degree of seafaring knowledge and criminal records for piracy.
Malaysia is in the process of extraditing the eight detained by Vietnamese authorities. The group is believed to be part of a larger piracy network, operating in Southeast Asia. The Malaysian government hopes the suspects will be able to give the whereabouts of the five pirates still at large as well as information about higher-ups in the suspected criminal organization.
The pirates reportedly attacked the Orkim Harmony with pistols and machetes. One crew member was shot through the thigh during the attack, but all others were uninjured.
Additionally, the tanker’s fuel cargo is believed to be the motivation for the attack. The Orkim Harmony was carrying 6,000 metric tons of RON 95 gasoline when it was seized, estimated to be worth $5.63 million.
According to anti-piracy watchdog ReCAAP,‘very significant’ incidents including fuel syphoning have been on the rise in Southeast Asia throughout 2015. This year has already seen more severe incidents of piracy than all of 2011-2014 combined for the same period.