On October 9, pirates released a Vietnamese oil tanker that was captured just after it left Singapore while in the Singapore Strait en route to central Vietnam, based on its last position from AIS data. The Sunrise 689 vanished from radar 40 minutes into its journey to Quang Tri province on October 2. The tanker is owned by the Hai Phong Sea Products Shipbuilding Joint Stock Company.
The Maritime Executive reports that eleven other vessels have been hijacked in the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea since April, part of a series of piracy attacks in Southeast Asian waters in 2014, according to the International Maritime Bureau Center in Kuala Lumpur. The International Business Times indicates that prime piracy targets in this area have been oil tankers – all have been released after their cargoes were stolen, according to reporting by ABC News.
The Sunrise 689 was carrying more than 5,226 metric tons of gas oil (a fuel oil distilled from petroleum), part of which was siphoned off by the ten armed pirates. Two members of the crew of 18 were injured; the tanker's communication systems and navigation equipment was destroyed by the pirates.
Once the pirates left, the tanker flagged down a fishing boat, the Vietnam Coast Guard was alerted, and the vessel was escorted to a safe location off the coast of Vietnam.
Searches done during the tanker's week of captivity were unable to locate the vessel.
At PortVision, we know that it is important to leverage the value of tools like real-time and historical AIS data as soon as unusual vessel activity is recognized, to identify not only the position of the vessel of interest, but also to evaluate ship tracks and provide a starting list of vessels that might have valuable details critical to the investigation.
By looking at its last known position and identifying who might have been in range to see or interact with the vessel, investigators could possibly review logs or data recorders from vessels in that vicinity to determine possible course/speed changes or the general course of the vessel; this information may have been captured on radar by nearby vessel Voyage Data Recorders (VDR). It could be critical during searches to use tools like historical AIS tracks to see the last recorded position of the missing vessel for a starting list of vessels to interview.
The accompanying graphic indicates vessel traffic in the Strait at the time in question, taken from PortVision's historical data warehouse.