More Asia trouble: Pirates raid Japanese oil tanker off Malaysia, kidnap three crew

(Reuters) – Armed pirates raided a Japanese oil tanker off the coast of Malaysia and abducted three crew members, Malaysian maritime police said on Wednesday, underscoring increasing threats to shipping in one of the world’s busiest waterways.

The incident in the Malacca Strait, a route for about a quarter of the world’s seaborne oil trade, has fuelled fears piracy could be on the rise in the area and drive up ship insurance premiums.

Six pirates in a speedboat boarded the Naninwa Maru 1 at 1.00 a.m. local time on Wednesday off the coast of west Malaysia, Maritime Police Commander Abdul Aziz Yusof told Reuters.

The pirates pumped out more than half the 5 million liters of diesel carried by the tanker into two waiting vessels and made off with three crew members, he added. Domestic media said the abducted men were Indonesians…

Update: Marine police Deputy Commander Abdul Rahim Abdullah said the tanker was sailing to Myanmar from Singapore when it was boarded by up to 10 pirates armed with pistols and machetes early Tuesday off the port of Klang.

Mr. Abdul Rahim said two other tankers appeared and an estimated 3 million liters of the 5 million liters of diesel on board the vessel were transferred over a span of several hours.

Mr. Abdul Rahim said the ship’s captain, chief engineer and a crew member were missing, along with their passports and belongings. Authorities are probing the possibility that the three were involved in the robbery.

“We are doing a thorough investigation. We have ruled out kidnapping because no ransom demand has been made,” Mr. Abdul Rahim said.

The ship is now anchored at Klang port outside Kuala Lumpur.

Initial reports said it was a Japanese tanker but Mr. Abdul Rahim said the ship had been sold to a Singapore company.