Dryad in piracy alert

Shipowners operating small tankers in waters around Singapore have been warned to keep their operational details secret.

Dryad Maritime says information on vessel movements and cargoes must be restricted to those that need to know.

It argues that that insider information may be at the heart of a several recent attacks involving cargo thefts in Southeast Asia.

Dryad said the recent hijacking of the Orapin 4 prompted it to issue the advisory to its shipping clients, on the basis that the crime follows a pattern, which has seen up to six such attacks, over the last nine months.

“The vessel’s last communicated position report, just two hours after departing Singapore, suggests that the hijackers most likely boarded the ship in the Singapore Strait, a body of water densely populated with shipping as well as police and coastguard vessels,” said Dryad’s chief operating officer Ian Millen.

”We believe that the criminal gang involved either had prior knowledge of the ship’s intended movements or followed her out of the anchorage.   

”Whilst details at this stage are sketchy, there is good reason to believe that the incident may be linked to other similar crimes over this period.”

Dryad’s senior analyst, Stephen McKenzie, expressed concern over the under reporting of such crimes, detailing the similarities between a number of other incidents.

“We believe that this type of organised crime is far more prevalent than reporting would suggest.  It is clearly well organised and executed, orchestrated by criminal gangs who are involved in the marine fuel black market across Asia.”

“Although we don’t yet know the full details of what happened on Orapin 4, it is likely that the vessel has been the victim of one of these gangs.

“In previous incidents, crew members have reported bunker barges and other small tankers waiting to transfer fuel at predetermined rendezvous sites.

“The hijackers clearly have knowledge of the operation of radio and satellite communications, along with some proficiency in handling fuel lines other ships’ equipment. 

“Violence is often used against crew members and vessels are often ransacked for cash, personal belongings and portable electrical equipment before the criminals depart. 

“This might suggest that those involved in the hijack are not particularly well paid for their part in the operation.

“This latest hijack is clearly not an isolated event and it is likely that such crime will continue to be perpetrated to feed the black market. 

“The unfortunate victims we have seen tend to be small, local product tankers, mainly working out of Singapore, with no obvious threat of this type of crime against larger tankers transiting through the area. 

“The key to defeating the criminal gangs involved lies in comprehensive reporting of all such incidents to the IMB and appropriate regional authorities, alongside the sharing of information with local law enforcement. 

“This kind of threat ultimately needs to be tackled at the point of criminal origin ashore.  Once in control of a vessel, it’s just too late.” added Millen.