Update: Crew Hijack Their Own Ship in Pay Dispute
(Brief) A product tanker carrying 240,000 gallons of diesel has been commandeered by her own crew and taken into Indonesian waters, contrary to earlier reports of a hijacking, Malaysian maritime authorities said on Wednesday.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said in a statement that the ship, the Vier Harmoni, has been found in waters off Batam, Indonesia. While early reports suggested a hijacking, the MMEA said in an update Wednesday that the vessel had probably been diverted by her own master, who told the owner that the ship would be returned to Batam due to an “internal management problem,” according to the AFP.
"MMEA and our Indonesian counterparts worked together in tracking the ship. We were later informed that the ship was safe in Batam,” MMEA chief Datuk Ahmad Puzi Abdul Kahar told local media on Wednesday. “Initial investigations suggest that the crew members decided to sail the ship to Batam after a dispute between them and their employer.”
Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Indonesia said that the crew claim they have not been paid in a month. While hijackings for fuel theft are historically common in waters off of Indonesia, authorities believe that the crew do not intend to steal the cargo.
The ship, which sailed from the Tanjung Pelepas port in Malaysia on Tuesday, is carrying diesel worth roughly $400,000.
Vier Abdul Jamal, CEO of shipowner Vierlines Asia Group, told the Wall Street Journal that the ship is under charter to another firm.