KUALA LUMPUR: Vietnamese authorities have arrested 11 suspected pirates aboard a chemical tanker after the first such hijacking in the waters around Malaysia in years, the International Maritime Bureau said on Friday.
The Malaysian-owned vessel lost communication on Saturday while on its way from the country's southern Johor state to Sarawak state on Borneo island, said Noel Choong, head of the bureau's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre.
After the centre sent out an alert, Vietnamese marine authorities managed to intercept the tanker on Thursday, arresting 11 suspects. The pirates had changed the ship's name and were flying a Honduran flag.
The tanker's nine crew members had been released at sea on Wednesday by the pirates, said Choong, adding that the crew were all safe after being rescued by local fishermen.
Choong said it was the first such case of a tanker with cargo being hijacked on its way to Sarawak in several years.
The maritime bureau praised the Vietnamese and Malaysian authorities for their efforts.
"IMB hopes that the authorities will take action and investigate the incident to contain and stop this type of menace," Choong said.
"Ships sailing in the region should maintain anti-piracy watches especially at night in Asian waters."
In October, four Indonesian suspected pirates were arrested for trying to hijack a tugboat and barge, also off Sarawak state. Choong said authorities were still investigating that case.
Pirate attacks in Malaysian waters have dropped in recent years following stepped up patrols and co-operation with neighbouring countries to secure waterways.
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