Vietnam seeks Interpol help in oil vessel robbery probe

By Truong Son, Thanh Nien News

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Vietnamese investigators said they will cooperate with Interpol to track down the pirates that attacked a Vietnamese oil tanker off Singapore this month.
Major General Ho Sy Tien, head of the criminal division at the Ministry of Public Security, said at a press briefing Thursday that police have collected enough evidence to conclude that the Sunrise 689 vessel was indeed pirated.
The tanker, loaded with 5,200 tons of diesel, was taken over by pirates shortly after it left Singapore for Vietnam on Oct. 2, the crew said.
It was released a week later after the pirates siphoned off some of the gas oil into their vessels.
General Tien said his unit had examined the entire vessel and collected statements from the ten crew members after coast guards towed them to a port in Vung Tau on Oct. 11.
He said they have found the boat’s black box, from which the data is being analyzed at the national marine administration.
Earlier media reports after the ship was released claimed that the black box was missing.
General Tien, however, said the recording device had been installed in a secret place in the ship by technicians of its owner, Hai Phong Sea Product and Shipbuilding Company.
Even crew members did not know where it was, he said.
“The pirates had tried to locate the black box to destroy it, but they couldn't,” he said.
The ship was reported missing after maritime authorities said they lost contact with the vessel when it was around 120 nautical miles (222 kilometers) north-east of Singapore and 360nm (592km) from Vietnam’s southernmost tip on Oct. 2. 
Captain Nguyen Quyet Thang said the pirates armed with guns and knives in a speedboat and two small fishing vessels boarded the tanker that morning.
They destroyed the communication and navigation systems, and offloaded 1,500 tons of diesel into their vessels.
They planned to take all the oil, but the crew tried to discourage them by claiming that a grand search was underway, Thang said.
Early on October 9, the pirates released the boat and its crew, who phoned homes with a cell phone they managed to steal back from the pirates. The tanker was then about 150 kilometers (90 miles) off Vietnam's southern tip.
Coast guards were sent to tow the vessel back to Vung Tau.
General Tien said the vessel was pirated in international sea and the lost oil was worth VND30 billion (US$1.41 million).
He said his division will seek help from the Interpol and the Southeast Asia anti-piracy center based in Singapore to track down the culprits after they obtain details from the black box content.

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