Missing fuel tanker 'taken by own crew'

Missing fuel tanker 'taken by own crew'

Update 12.45pm: A fuel tanker that disappeared from a Malaysian port was taken by its own crew in a dispute with their employer, Indonesian and Malaysian officials have said.

Maritime authorities from both countries have been searching for the Indonesian-flagged MT Vier Harmoni after it dropped out of contact on Tuesday evening.

There were suspicions the tanker had been hijacked. For years, gangs of armed thieves have targeted small tankers operating off South East Asian coasts, looking for marine diesel and oil to steal and then sell. And militants in the southern Philippines have staged ransom kidnappings in the regional waters in recent months.

Indonesia's western naval command said in a statement that it has information the captain of the vessel twice informed his employer he was taking the ship back to the Indonesian island of Batam because of an "internal management problem".

It said there was no indication of any violence and it is co-ordinating with Malaysia to locate the ship.

Earlier: Malaysian and Indonesian maritime authorities are searching for a fuel tanker with 10 crew members on board that has disappeared in an apparent hijacking.

Malaysia's Maritime Enforcement Agency chief Ahmad Puzi Kahar said on Wednesday the MT Vier Harmoni was suspected to have been hijacked after leaving a port in Malaysia's southern Johor state and taken to waters off the Indonesian island of Batam, which is south of Singapore.

Indonesia's western naval command and its coast guard said they also were searching for the ship but there was no indication so far that it had entered Batam.

Vier Abdul Jamal, chief executive of the tanker's owner, Vierlines Asia Group, said the Indonesian-flagged vessel has 10 Indonesian crew on board and is currently chartered by another company.

The charterer and the harbour master where the vessel was loaded lost contact with Vier Harmoni on Tuesday evening and its tracking device is not active, he said.

The vessel, which has an experienced captain, could have been hijacked, sunk or be suffering engine problems, he said.

The Malaysian maritime agency said the tanker was carrying 900,000 litres of diesel and left from Tanjung Pelepas port in Johor.

Ahmad Puzi, the agency's chief, said "internal problems" might be behind the disappearance.

The 175ft (53m) Vier Harmoni was built in 2014.

Indonesia has suffered a series of kidnappings of its seamen this year by Abu Sayyaf militants based in the southern Philippines. Those incidents, which occurred off Borneo in waters that border Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, involved the militants abandoning the vessels and demanding ransoms for the kidnapped men.

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