HANOI (AFP) – A Vietnam-flagged tanker was hijacked by gun-toting pirates who stole part of the vessel’s cargo of oil before releasing the ship and its crew safely, an official said Thursday.
The MT Sunrise 689 went missing en route from Singapore to the Vietnamese port of Quang Tri, falling out of contact shortly after it left port a week ago.
“The Sunrise and its 18 crew members were released early this morning by pirates who took around a third of cargo on board,” Nguyen Nhat, the director of Vietnam’s Maritime Department, told AFP Thursday.
“Around a dozen pirates with guns jumped on the ship, took control and beat the crew,” said Nhat, who had spoken to the ship’s captain Nguyen Quoc Thang early Thursday after their release.
“The pirates broke the communication system, robbed the oil and goods on board,” he added.
Southeast Asia has seen a spate of daring hijackings this year, centred on the Strait of Malacca running between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The incidents have fanned fears that the region’s busy shipping lanes – plagued by piracy for centuries – could once again become a problem area after an earlier surge in sea banditry was largely suppressed by regional navies.