Bungling pirates attacked a tanker off Malaysia last month to steal its oil cargo only to find the vessel was empty and were later arrested by the authorities.
In the only case of theft of oil cargo in the first half of the year reported by the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) the attempt was to prove unsuccessful as the criminals targeted an empty vessel.
The tanker Lee Bo was boarded by 14 pirates armed with machetes and knives while underway off the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia on 1 June.
“They got on board the ship but realised there was no oil on the tanker,” Masafumi Kuroki, executive director of ReCAAP told reporters at its half yearly press briefing. Realising their mistake they robbed the crew of 12 of their personal belongings leaving two of the seafarers slightly injured.
Responding to a report of the attack the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) a Special Task and Rescue (STAR) team to the location and boarded the vessel arrested all 14 perpetrators, who have since been charged with gang robbery.
With the assistance of the Indonesia Armed Forces two suspects believed to be the masterminds behind the operation were arrested on the island of Batam in Indonesia on the same day.
ReCAAP believes the criminal syndicates behind oil cargo thefts at sea are likely involved in other illegal activities turning to oil theft at sea when it is lucrative. The current higher oil price makes such crimes more lucrative.