Siphoning Incidents Nothing New?

Siphoning Incidents Nothing New
The trend of incidents involving siphoning of fuel/oil from product and oil tankers at sea is not new. Statistics for Jan-Jul of 2014 reveal that the occurrence of such incidents took place more frequently compared to the annual numbers reported in the past three years (2011-2013), piracy watchdog ReCAAP ISC said in a report.

Attributing to the surge in the number of incidents are various factors, including the market price of fuel/oil, the demand for fuel/oil in underground markets, along with the absence of authorities in locations where the siphoning occurred which in most instances, were outside areas of jurisdiction.

Between 2011 and Jul 2014, a total of 16 incidents of siphoning of fuel/oil were reported, of which 11 incidents of siphoning were successfully carried out, according to the report.

The other five incidents were foiled because of timely intervention by enforcement agencies arising from timely reporting of the incidents to the ReCAAP ISC or the authorities who triggered the relevant agencies to
promptly respond to the incident.

In other unsuccessful cases, the crew exercised enhanced vigilance by triggering the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), or reporting the incident to vessels in the vicinity immediately.

Of the 11 successful incidents of siphoning reported during 2011-2014, one occurred in 2011, one in 2012, two in 2013 and seven in 2014.

Location of the reported incidents
Location of the reported incidents

Notably, majority of the incidents occurred in the South China Sea (SCS).

Of the 11 incidents reported during 2011 -Jul 2014, seven occurred in the SCS, two in Indonesia, one in Malaysia and one in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS).

The SCS was far away from shore, and outside the area of jurisdiction of regional authorities who would require more time to arrive at the location of the incident.

This worked in favour of the pirates who could ‘buy time’ in carrying out their siphoning activities, and escaped before the arrival of the authorities.

View of Ai Maru from RSS Gallant
View of Ai Maru from RSS Gallant

Of the seven incidents reported in the SCS, one occurred in 2013 and six in 2014. The incidents involved Danai 4 (10 Oct 13), Sri Phangnga (17 Apr 14), Orapin 4 (28 May 14), Budi Mesra Dua (7 Jun 14), Ai Maru ( 14 Jun 14), Moresby 9 (4 Jul 13) and Oriental Glory (15 Jul 14).

By and large, the pirates/robbers adopted quite similar modus operandi in terms of the composition of the pirate/robber group, the treatment of crew, the weapons used and the modes of boarding.

Most groups comprised not less than five, the highest being 16 men in the incident involving Sri Phangnga.

Of the 16 incidents, eight of them reported that the pirates/robbers were armed with handguns or pistols and knives or parangs (long knives).

MMEA vessel beside Ai Maru
MMEA vessel beside Ai Maru

In majority of the reported incidents, the pirates/robbers boarded the tankers while underway,tied the crew and locked them in the cabin, took over control of the tankers and transferred the oil/fuel to another tanker or barge that would come alongside.

Of the 16 incidents, three tankers had their names repainted over and renamed to mask their identities while siphoning was carried out.

According to ReCaap, demand for fuel/oil remains high and pirates/robbers are likely to continue with this lucrative business unless governments and shipping industry can work together collectively to arrest the perpetrators to serve as a deterrence.

In addition, pirates/robbers appeared to have knowledge of the amount and types of fuel/oil carried onboard the tankers and the route taken by the tankers therefore the possibility of conspiracy between the pirates/robbers should definitely not be excluded.

Press Release, July 25, 2014