An oil tanker hijacked in the South China Sea was recovered after the pirates released it and fled in a rescue boat, Malaysian officials said on Friday. The Orkim Harmony was hijacked on June 11 off the coast of Malaysia by pirates who reportedly wielded machetes and pistols and spoke with Indonesian accents.
Officials said that only one member of the 22-strong crew of the vessel was injured, having suffered a gunshot to the thigh.
The Orkim Harmony was repainted and renamed by the pirates as Kim Harmon after being hijacked near the Malaysian port of Tanjung Sedili. It was carrying about 50,000 barrels of gasoline.
Malaysian navy vessels detected it on Thursday in Cambodian waters before tracking it down in Vietnamese territorial waters. The naval vessel shadowing it attempted to persuade the hijackers to surrender on Thursday, Malaysia's Chief of Navy Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar reportedly said. Early Friday, the vessel, which was still being shadowed by the navy ship, changed course for the Indonesian island of Natuna, where it was expected to arrive on Saturday. However, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency subsequently said the pirates had fled the ship, Reuters reported.
The incident is the second time this month that a ship operated by Malaysia's Orkim Ship Management has been hijacked in the same location. Earlier in June, the Orkim Victory was hijacked while carrying petrol in the same region along the same route. The Victory was later released by the hijackers after about 6,000 barrels of gas it carried had been siphoned off.
The area where the hijackings took place is a “hotspot” for piracy, according to Seri Shahidan Kassim, a minister in the Prime Minister's Department.