Photo credit: Vietnam Coast Guards
A Vietnamese tanker pirated off Singapore was towed to Vung Tau on Saturday morning after Coast Guard officials completed a damage inspection at sea the previous evening.
Major-General Nguyen Quang Dam, the commander of Vietnam’s Coast Guard, said that after a patrol ship reached the Sunrise 689 on Thursday afternoon, officials took photos, videos and statements from the crew.
They will continue to collect evidence for an investigation into the incident, Dam said.
He said his unit will conduct an independent investigation until such time as they have adequate evidence of the pirates' nationality.
Then they will inform the country’s embassy in Vietnam and request help in tracking down the perpetrators, he said.
Vietnam can issue a plea for assistance to maritime forces in multiple countries if necessary, he said.
But Dam said the investigation won’t be easy.
“The information we have so far is very thin, as the pirates had all left before we found the vessel," he said. “Everything we have was derived from crew members’ statements, some of which don't match.”
Dam said the investigation could rattle diplomatic ties and Vietnam will have to be very careful.
“No country wants to admit that the pirates were their people,” he said.
Captain Nguyen Quyet Thang and crew members told media outlets that the masked pirates sounded, acted and dressed like Indonesians.
Their 6,000-ton tanker left Singapore on October 2 after being loaded with 5,200 tons of diesel at Horizon port, but vanished from radar at 4:27am the following morning on its way back to Vietnam.
Vietnamese maritime officials say they lost contact with the vessel when it was around 120 nautical miles (222 kilometers) north-east of Singapore and 360nm (592km) from Ca Mau.
Thang said pirates caught up to them on a speedboat and two small fishing vessels early that morning.
The pirates damaged all equipment except for the rudder and compass and offloaded 1,500 tons of diesel into waiting support vessels.
They planned to take the crew hostage, but the crew claimed a grand search was underway.
Early last Thursday, the pirates conceded and released the boat and its crew.
The registered owner, Hai Phong Sea Product and Shipbuilding Company in the northern port city, has asked Vung Tau maritime officials to release the crew as soon as the boat’s equipment is fixed so they can deliver the remaining diesel to customers in the central province of Quang Tri.
Le Van Chien, director of Vung Tau Port Authority, said: “That is for the investigators to decide.”