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Pirate hijack tugboat off Tioman

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Pirate hijack tugboat off Tioman

Post Number:#1  Postby timyang » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:11 pm

SINGAPORE - Pirates armed with parangs swooped on Marina 26, a S$5.8 million tugboat last Tuesday just 22km off the coast of Pulau Tioman, a dive spot popular among Singaporeans.

More than 10 pirates - mainly Indonesians - took charge of the tugboat and a barge it was pulling. The tugboat and barge are owned by Indonesian shipping company PT Pelnas Bahtera Bestari Shipping.

The director of the shipping company, Miss Tresya, an avid diver who frequents Pulau Tioman, contacted MediaCorp with news of the incident - to warn Singaporeans of the "potential danger".

Noting that "many Singaporeans dive off Tioman and those who own vessels go there often", Miss Tresya said: "We hope to alert vessel owners and the relevant authorities to the piracy problems around our region which we feel have been neglected. The fact that this incident happened close to the coast of a populated area shows that the pirates have no fear." The vessels had left Singapore 24 hours before they were hijacked.

The pirates destroyed the tugboat's Global Positioning System device. The 10-man crew were tied up and locked up in one of the cabins.

"We were all shivering," the vessel's master, Captain Amri Arsyad, 31, told MediaCorp in Bahasa Indonesia.

They were held captive for two days while the pirates re-painted the vessel with leftover green paint they found on board.

The pirates then forced the crew to jump into a life-raft with some food, mineral water and their passports.

The next 40 hours were hell, the crew recounted. "We spotted a cargo ship and started waving and shouting to attract their attention but it passed us by. We felt really helpless. Later that afternoon, the boat started to deflate and we paddled with our hands to try and reach Tioman, which was far away on the horizon," said Mr Amri.

Soon, they tired and stopped paddling. The boat drifted. "It seemed hopeless. At the back of my mind, I thought that was the end of my life," he said.

Things changed when they were spotted by a fisherman who was passing by and came to their rescue. The crew, mostly Indonesians, are now recovering at Natuna Island in Indonesia. International information sharing centre for maritime matters, ReCAAP ISC, has confirmed the incident and has circulated an incident alert with photos of the tugboat.

A similar hijacking off Pulau Tioman was reported in February last year. TANYA FONG
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