Hijacked Tanker Did Not Enter Cambodian Waters, Officials Say

A Malaysian-flagged oil tanker that was hijacked by pirates last week was spotted in Cambodian waters by the Australian air force Thursday, according to Malaysian state media. Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, however, said the vessel never passed through the country’s territorial sea.

According to Malaysia’s state-owned Bernama news website, a Royal Australian Air Force aircraft sighted the Orkim Harmony in Cambodian waters on Wednesday afternoon. Bernama reported that the tanker, which went missing on June 11, was carrying 6,000 tons of oil valued at about $5.6 million.

The stern of the Orkim Harmony is seen in this photo posted to the  Twitter account of Malaysian Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar yesterday. The pirates who hijacked the ship last week apparently painted over part of the name so that it reads 'Kim Harmon.'
The stern of the Orkim Harmony is seen in this photo posted to the Twitter account of Malaysian Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar yesterday. The pirates who hijacked the ship last week apparently painted over part of the name so that it reads ‘Kim Harmon.’

In a statement, Orkim Ship Management, the owner of the tanker, said 22 crew members were on the tanker when it disappeared.

Contacted Thursday afternoon, General Banh said that after hearing reports that the Orkim Harmony was in Cambodian waters, he reached out to the navy.

“I checked with the navy and [the navy] didn’t see it cross Cambodia’s sea,” General Banh said. “We do not have to worry because it’s in Vietnam’s sea, and now they are negotiating with the oil tanker.”

Yos Sivutha, commander of Koh Tang naval base in the Gulf of Thailand, said he sent out patrols to look for the tanker Thursday, but they came up empty handed.

“We patrolled, but we did not see the tanker. Maybe it went somewhere else,” he said. “We would know if the oil tanker crossed Cambodia’s sea.”

On his Twitter account Thursday, Malaysia’s chief of navy, Abdul Aziz Jaafar, said that at least eight armed pirates were onboard the ship.

“They are armed with pistols and ‘parangs,’” he wrote, referring to a type of machete. “They speak with Indonesian accent.”

The Malaysian navy chief also posted a photo of the tanker showing that the pirates apparently attempted to disguise the ship by painting over part of its name on the stern so that it read “Kim Harmon.”

According to Reuters, Vice Admiral Ahmad Puzi, deputy director-general of the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency’s operations unit, told a press briefing that as of noon Thursday, the Malaysian navy was pursuing the Orkin Harmony through Vietnamese waters.

He said the navy was also negotiating with the pirates through the ship’s captain, and that both the crew and cargo were safe, Reuters said.

“We are using a soft approach first, trying to advise them to surrender,” Vice Adm. Puzi reportedly said.

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