Crew of hijacked tanker found

PHUKET: The crew of the hijacked Japanese tanker, the Global Mars, were found on an island off the coast of Phanga Nga Province on Friday after a 17-day ordeal at sea. The vessel, with 17 crew members – seven Koreans and 10 Burmese – left Port Klang in Malaysia on February 22, bound for the Indian port of Haldia with a cargo of 6,000 tonnes of palm oil. The alarm was raised after the operators lost contact with the vessel; its last radio call was on February 23. After that, there was silence, raising concern that the tanker had either been hijacked or had sunk. The crew told Thai authorities that about 20 pirates armed with automatic rifles seized the vessel at 10.30 pm on February 24, about 70-80 kilometers west of Thai waters. Eight of the hijackers took control of the tanker. The remaining 12 blindfolded the crew and transferred them to a large fishing boat, where they were held for 13 days. Pol Lt Col Chalermpol Maliwan of the Marine Police said the crew told him that they were treated well; no one was harmed and the pirates gave them food and water. On March 7 they were ordered onto a smaller fishing boat and abandoned. Since the crew had been blindfolded the whole time, they did not know where they were. The boat had a small engine and some provisions, so they motored until they ran out of fuel and then food. On March 9 they encountered some local fisherman, who gave them fuel, food and directions. When they again ran out of fuel, said Lt Col Chalermpol, they set to paddling with their hands and, helped by favorable winds, arrived at Surin Island, Kuraburi District, on March 10. There, they were found by staff of the national park. “The crew were not harmed but they were hungry and sunburned after their ordeal. Luckily, during the time they were lost, there was no bad weather.” The identity and nationality of the pirates are unknown but the police believe they are probably from the same Indonesian group that has orchestrated similar attacks in waters between Indonesia and Thailand. Royal Thai Navy helicopters and ships based in Phuket joined in the hunt for the Global Mars, searching from Myanmar to the far south of Thailand. But police believe the tanker is now a long way from Thai waters, most likely headed for India where its cargo of palm oil – estimated to be worth around 58 million baht – can most easily be sold on the black market. The crew are now in Bangkok awaiting replacement documentation to allow them to return home.

Phuket News
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