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MT Zafirah hijacking

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Title: MT Zafirah hijacking  
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Subject: MT Orkim Harmony hijacking, Terrorism in Malaysia, Operation Dawn 8: Gulf of Aden, Malaysia–Vietnam relations, 2012 in Malaysia
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MT Zafirah hijacking

MT Zafirah hijacking
Part of Piracy in the Strait of Malacca and Piracy in Indonesia
Date 18–22 November 2012
Location Lost near the waters of Natuna Islands, Indonesia

Vietnamese victory.[1][2]

  • All eight tanker crews rescued.
  • Hijack foiled and all eleven pirates arrested.
  • Malaysian tanker recovered.


Vietnam Coast Guard
 Vietnam People's Navy
Indonesian pirates[3]
Commanders and leaders
Nguyễn Quang Đạm
Lê Hải Trường
Nguyễn Tuấn Hải
Lê Xuân Thành
3 ships
2 ships (Vietnamese fishing vessels)[5]
1 tanker
11 pirates[6]
Casualties and losses
none 11 captured[1][2]
MT Zafirah hijacking is located in Southeast Asia
Approximate location where the tanker was recovered.[note 1]

On 18 November 2012, eleven Indonesian pirates hijacked MT Zafirah, a Malaysian tanker, in the South China Sea. The tanker crew was left by the pirates on a lifeboat in the sea two days after the hijacking but were subsequently rescued by Vietnamese fishing vessel on 21 November when their lifeboat was drifting around 118 nautical miles in the waters off Vietnam’s southern Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu Province.[7] All the pirates managed to be tracked by Vietnam Coast Guard and Vietnam People's Navy with information provided by Malaysian based International Maritime Bureau and Singaporean based RECAAP, which lead to their arrestment after a brief of standoff near Vũng Tàu port.[note 1][8][9]


  • Background 1
  • Hijacking 2
  • Searching operations 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The tanker was carrying 320,173 litres of light crude oil from Pasir Gudang, Johor, West Malaysia to Miri, Sarawak, East Malaysia when it was reportedly missing.[note 1] Around five Myanmar nationals and four Indonesians were on board the tanker.[10][11]


MT Zafirah was hijacked near Natuna Islands, Indonesia. From 19–20 November, the tanker was seen proceeding in a northerly direction with the last communication was recorded at about 174.4 nautical miles () southeast of Côn Sơn Island, Vietnam.[note 1] RECAAP reported all the eleven pirates were armed with long knives and pistols,[11] and might be trying to sell the fuel illegally in Vietnam[10] along with a report received by the Vietnam Coast Guard (VCG) stating a company called "Petimax" will receive the oil from the tanker.[12] All the tanker crews was later found on a lifeboat after been left two days in the sea by the hijackers where they were subsequently rescued by Vietnamese fishing vessels.[note 1][7]

Searching operations

Shortly after the missing, the Kuala Lumpur based International Maritime Bureau informing the incident to VCG and, upon receiving the information, the VCG standby its forces. At around 10:06 am (UTC+07:00), the Singapore-based RECAAP reported the latest position of the tanker was located in the Vietnamese waters and the tanker is moving at 10 nautical miles an hour.[note 1][12] Some 24 hours after the report, the VCG was informed that the operators of the tanker had managed to anchor at a port in Vietnam to unload cargo. The VCG departed two ships along with another one on its way to the area when it was detected 45 nautical miles east-southeast of Côn Đảo Island.[13] At around 02:30 am (UTC+07:00), two Vietnamese authorities vessels arrived at the site where the hijacked tanker was reportedly expected to arrive.[12] When they spotted a suspicious tanker at the area, the VCG turned their lights to the tanker cabins but the crews on the tanker refused to respond. The VCG then tried to establish a contact with the suspicious tanker but still no response was received.[14] After repeatedly trying to contact them, the suspicious crews onboard gave an inconsistent replies when they said they were on their way to China, but later they said they were en route to Singapore.[14] The VCG then ordered them to drop anchor as well the VCG forces were put on standby with their AK-47.[13][15]


After ordering them to stop, the VCG found the tanker name was MT Sea Horse with a flag of Honduras.[16] However, when the VCG noticed the strange paint on the tanker as well with an earlier reports by the captain of the missing tanker who had been rescued by Vietnamese fishing vessels told his tanker had been hijacked by 11 men, who were likely Indonesians and with a report from Piracy Reporting Centre in Malaysia that it had found no cargo vessel named the MT Sea Horse in its archives, the VCG ordered the tanker to be taken offshore for identification.[12][14][16] After two days keeping the suspected tanker to anchor, at 03:00 pm (UTC+07:00) the suspicious crews on board the tanker suddenly start their engine. One of them were seen tried to cut the anchor in their bid to escape while another one contacting the VCG from the tanker and said “We are about to leave Vietnamese waters immediately”.[12] As a reaction, the VCG were ordered to shot at the rooftop of the bridge of the tanker to force them to stop. After a series of gunshots, the suspicious crews slow down the tanker but refused to leave the tower after been told to do so.[16] The VCG tried again to repeat the order and told them to surrender but as they were reluctant to surrender, the VCG continued the shot with 12.7mm machine guns and AK rifles.[17] All the suspicious crews began crawling out of the control tower to the prow to surrender with VCG began to counting them one by one until get a total of eleven. The VCG noticed at the earlier reports that there are around twelve perpetrators and began to fearing the one was still hiding in the tanker and could tried to explode himself with the tanker.[17] The VCG trying to threatened to shoot four of them at the prow after each burst of gunshot if the twelfth one refused to appear. When a gunshot was fire into the air, all the perpetrators cried and shouted loudly that they only had eleven.[1][15] Five motor boats was then sent to approached the tanker and all of them was ordered to jump into the water. Within 50 minutes since the first burst of gunshot directed at the control tower, all eleven perpetrators were tied up and brought into one of the Vietnamese vessels. All of them was later confirmed as the hijackers.[1] At the end of the successful mission, Major General Nguyễn Quang Đạm quote in a statement about the situation;

On 13 April 2013, approximately four and a half months after the incident, all the pirates were escorted to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City for an extradition to Indonesian authorities.[8][17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f The reference is on the external links.


  1. ^ a b c d "Vietnam arrests 11 on hijacked Malaysian ship".  
  2. ^ a b Gia Khánh (23 November 2012). "Đấu súng trên biển, bắt 11 nghi can cướp tàu Zafirah" (in Vietnamese). Người Lao Động. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  3. ^ "Cảnh sát biển Việt Nam chạm trán cướp biển". Tuổi Trẻ (in Vietnamese).  
  4. ^ Nguyễn Long (23 November 2012). "Thuyền viên tàu ZAFIRAH nhận diện cướp biển" (in Vietnamese).  
  5. ^ "Foreign hijacked sailors return home safely". Vietnam Plus. Baomoi. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "11 pirates arrested in Ba Ria-Vung Tau". Vietnam Plus. WADA Tin tức. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Distressed foreign sailors brought ashore". Vietnam Plus. WADA Tin tức. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Piracy and armed robbery against ships (Section: Vietnam extradites pirate suspects)" (PDF). ICC International Maritime Bureau (ICC Germany). 2013. p. 26. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  9. ^ "Reports on acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships" (PDF).  
  10. ^ a b "Bunker Pirates Hijack Tanker for its MGO". Ship & Bunker. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Peter Shadbolt (8 February 2013). "Asia's sea pirates target treasure of marine fuel".  
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Cảnh sát biển Việt Nam chạm trán cướp biển" (in Vietnamese). Tuổi Trẻ. 26 June 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "Vietnamese coast guards vs. pirates – P1: A face-to-face encounter".  
  14. ^ a b c Kitty (27 June 2015). "Cuộc kiếm tìm trong đêm". Tuổi Trẻ (in Vietnamese). Xaluan. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Cảnh sát biển VN chạm trán cướp biển: Bắn thẳng vào cabin" (in Vietnamese). Alo Bacsi. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c "Vietnamese coast guards vs. pirates – P2: An order to open fire". Tuổi Trẻ. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c "Vietnamese coast guards vs. pirates – P3: All 11 pirates surrender, unhurt". Tuổi Trẻ. 5 July 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015. 

External links

  • Update on incident involving hijacking of Zafirah on RECAAP
  • Vietnam Coast Guard arrested pirates : The Untold Story on (Vietnamese)

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