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Malaysian navy says missing tanker found in Cambodian waters

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A Malaysian-registered tanker that disappeared a week ago in a suspected hijacking has been detected in Cambodian waters with a new name and fresh coat of paint, Malaysia's navy chief was quoted saying Thursday, June 18.

Abdul Aziz Jaafar said Malaysian and Australian aircraft were shadowing the MT Orkim Harmony, which vanished last Thursday, June 11, off the southeastern Malaysian state of Johor along with its crew of 22.

"We have found the vessel and RMAF (Malaysian air force), MMEA (Malaysian coast guard) and RAAF (Australian air force) aircraft are tailing it from the air," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Bernama news agency.

The London-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has repeatedly warned that the waters of Southeast Asia were becoming the world's piracy hotspot.

The IMB said pirates were increasingly preying on slow-moving small coastal tankers and that one attack is occurring every two weeks.

Typically, armed pirates seize control of the ships and syphon off their cargoes of diesel or gas oil to other vessels before later releasing the tankers and crews.

The MT Orkim Harmony was said to be carrying 6,000 tonnes of petrol valued at 21 million ringgit ($5.6 million).

Its crew includes 16 Malaysians, 5 Indonesians and one Myanmar national.

The vessel was en route from the port of Malacca on the west coast of Malaysia to Kuantan on the South China Sea. The ship's owners were last in contact with it on June 11.

Southeast Asia saw 38 pirate attacks during January-March, or 70% of the global total of 54, the IMB said in an April report, calling the frequency of regional incidents "an increasing cause for concern."

Piracy in the region had been significantly reduced in the previous decade by stepped-up regional cooperation and maritime patrols, but has re-emerged.

Much of the world's trade passes through Southeast Asian shipping lanes such as the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The IMB said last December that pirates shot dead a crew member on a Vietnamese tanker off the eastern coast of Malaysia, but most attacks end with no reports of casualties. – Rappler.com