KUANTAN – MT Orkim Harmony, the vessel seized by eight Indonesian pirates on June 11, arrived safely with its 21 crew members at the Kuantan Port this morning.
Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) Commander of Naval Region 1 (Mawilla 1), Rear-Admiral Datuk Azahari Abdul Rashid said the vessel owned by Magna Meridian
Sdn Bhd arrived at the port about 7.30am, five hours later than scheduled.
“Initially, MT Orkim Harmony was expected to dock at 2.30am. However, due to engine problems, it arrived at 7.30am, accompanied by RMN naval ship KD Handalan,” he told reporters at the Tanjung Gelang Naval Base near here today.
Members of the media who were informed of the tanker’s arrival began gathering at the Kuantan Port, as early as 5am, but were not allowed to get close to the vessel.
As a result, photographers from the various agencies resorted to taking photographs from a distance, forcing some to climb trees to get the best shots.
Upon arrival at the port, a team of armed and masked personnel, believed to be from the RMN elite troop, Naval Special Forces, was seen getting on board the vessel to carry out checks.
In addition, members of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) forensics unit and fire and rescue department, Indonesian Embassy representatives and an ambulance were seen entering the area where the ship was docked at Dermaga Petronas.
It is understood that all crew members will undergo screening and questioning to ascertain if they were linked to the tanker’s hijack before they are released.
As of 1.30pm, Bernama noted that all crew members were still on board the ship.
Meanwhile, Azhari confirmed the eight armed men detained by the Vietnamese authorities at Tho Chu Island about 6.30am Friday, after taking off in an MT Orkim Harmony rescue boat, were the pirates who seized the vessel on June 11.
He said the matter was confirmed by MT Orkim Harmony chef, Mawit Matin, 46 who identified them through photographs shown to him while he was at Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital Kubang Kerian, Kelantan for treatment.
Commenting on the process of bringing back the pirates to Malaysia for prosecution, Azhari the matter would be handled by MMEA soon.
He did not rule out the possibility the pirates who seized the tanker, laden with 6,000 tonnes of RON95 petrol worth RM21 million, while the vessel was enroute to Kuantan Port from Melaka, were members of an experienced syndicate.
He said this was based on the planning and preparation made in hijacking the tanker, including repainting and renaming the vessel to avoid detection.
The vessel with 22 crew members comprising 16 Malaysians, five Indonesians and a Myanmar national lost communication with the base at 8.57pm at eastern Tanjung Sedili, Kota Tinggi in Johor on June 11.
On June 18, the authorities detected the vessel which was found to have been renamed ‘Kim Harmon’.
Azhari said, efforts to locate the tanker were made with the mobilisation of 29 air and sea assets belonging to Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia covering an area of more than 500,000 nautical miles.
He added that search and rescue operations which commenced at 7am on June 12 failed to detect anything until the Royal Australian Air Force, P-3C Orion aircraft spotted the tanker in the Gulf of Siam on June 17. – BERNAMA