KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s navy has fought off a pirate attack on a tanker off its east coast in the South China Sea, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Sunday.
The Malaysian force was assisted by the Indonesian and Singaporean navies in fending off the attack late on Saturday, said Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Center.
The pirates fled the Singapore-managed tanker after navy patrol boats arrived before they could loot the vessel, the international body said.
“The Malaysian navy quickly dispatched a patrol boat and managed to intercept the tanker. Pirates managed to escape before the arrival of the naval boat,” the IMB said in a report.
It added that the crew and cargo were safe, but gave no further details about the tanker or the pirates. There has been a spate of pirate attacks recently in waters off Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
The United Nations warned on Thursday that Southeast Asia has become the world’s piracy hotspot, after an international clampdown slashed the number of hijackings off the coast of war-torn Somalia.
Attacks in Southeast Asia topped 150 last year after starting an upward trend since 2010, the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) said in a report.
Attacks in the Horn of Africa spiraled from the early 2000s, with pirates hijacking cargo ships and taking crews prisoner for months and even years.
Much of the reduction in attacks is down to the international fleet that has started to patrol the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, and many merchant vessels have started keeping armed guards onboard.
Attacks have also become far less severe, with incidents involving rocket-propelled grenades falling from 43 in 2011 to just three last year.
At the same time the pirates’ ransom haul fell from $150 million in 2011 to $60 million the following year.