Home Contact Us  

Navy - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4694, 14 October 2014

Petro Pirates and Maritime Security

Pirates Prefer Energy Cargo
Vijay Sakhuja
Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi

Early this month, pirates released the hijacked MT Sunrise 689, a small product tanker bound for Vietnam which went missing soon after it left Singapore. During the captivity that lasted nearly six days, the pirates siphoned 2,000 of the total 5,200 metric tons of oil valued at $4 million. They also stole the personal belongings of the crew and threatened to kill if they did not follow orders – but assured them that their only aim was to steal the oil carried onboard the vessel.

This is the 12th incident of piracy in Southeast Asia involving small oil tankers. These vessels are easy targets because they are small, have smaller crews, move at slow speeds, and the low freeboard makes boarding comparatively easier and quicker.  Perhaps the most worrying aspect of these attacks is that pirates in Southeast Asia have taken a liking for small product tankers carrying diesel that is sold to prospective customers, who re-sell for anywhere between $400 and $650 per ton in the black market. 

These pirates or robbers are popularly referred to as ‘Petro Pirates’ and are believed to be part of transnational organised crime groups who own small tankers and are networked with the oil smuggling mafia. Furthermore, these Petro Pirates appear to only steal cargo and not harm the crew. For instance, in June 2014, pirates hijacked Orapin 4, a Thai oil tanker, with its cargo of oil worth nearly $2.2 million; they stole the oil, did not hurt the crew, but robbed them of watches, cell phones, money and other valuables. Similarly, in April 2014, pirates raided a tanker off the coast of Malaysia and stole 3 million liters of diesel. In fact the business model of Petro Pirates’ does not appear to include ransoms.  

Interestingly, a similar story is being played out along the west coast of Africa but on a larger scale. Early this year, MT Kerala, a 75,000 ton tanker carrying diesel was hijacked by Nigerian pirates off the Angolan coast. The vessel was released after being siphoned of 12,270 tons of its diesel cargo. The pirates took the usual precautions of disabling the Automatic Identification System, switching off communications, and repainting the name of the vessel.  

The International Maritime Bureau’s half year report for January to June 2014 recorded 23 incidents off the west coast of Africa, and Nigerian waters has witnessed 10 such attacks. These trends are a continuation of the past reports and the UK Chamber of Shipping records state that acts of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea are worrisome – 62 attacks in 2012; 51 in 2013. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for 19 per cent of all maritime attacks worldwide.  Significantly, the Gulf of Guinea is believed to be a greater threat to shipping than Somalia because of its flourishing oil and gas industry which attracts shipping, unlike Somalia, where pirates preyed on targets of opportunity along the busy sea route. 

The West African piracy is driven by a commodity – oil – which is available in abundance. For instance, Nigeria is an oil-rich country and produces nearly 2 million barrels of oil per day. However, it has limited refining capacity resulting in both export of crude and import of refined oil thus generating sufficient maritime traffic for pirates to feed on. 

Unlike Nigeria, Singapore does not produce any oil but is the hub of the Asian petrochemicals industry with a sophisticated refining, storage, and distribution infrastructure, and therefore attracts significant tanker traffic. A variety of large and small vessels carrying oil and gas make port calls to deliver crude or carry refined products to regional and global markets. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the petrochemical industry is the backbone of Singapore's economy and it has a refining capacity of nearly 1.4 million barrels of oil per day. 

The aforementioned incidents along the west coast of Africa and in Southeast Asian waters offer an interesting feature. The business model of piracy in both cases involves hijacking vessels for the cargo carried onboard, and in particular, the refined energy products such as diesel. It is plausible that pirates in Southeast Asia may have borrowed the idea from West Africa – who appear to have become more sophisticated and have graduated to hijacking bigger ships. 

In essence, the pirates may not have changed their Modus Operandi of attacking both small and big ships; instead they have become cargo/commodity conscious and believe that stealing refined energy products is more lucrative than waiting for ransoms. However, it is useful to mention that the stolen oil or other products are carried in smaller vessels that are equally vulnerable to interception by security forces.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Microbeads and Microfibre: A Big Challenge for Blue Economy

Short Sea Shipping in Bay of Bengal Takes Baby Steps

Plastic Litter: The Challenge at Sea

Marine Mammal Stranding: Myth, Mystery and Facts

Dhow Trade in the North Arabian Sea

Maritime Issues: Proactive Initiatives

Towards a North Arabian Maritime Partnership

Forecast 2016: Indian Ocean Politics and Security

Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage

Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness

IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Indian Ocean: Why India Seeks Demilitarisation

India and Maritime Security: Do More

Asia and the Seas: Looking Back to Look Forward

Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations

Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point

Xi Jinping and the Maritime Silk Road: The Indian Dilemma

Drug Smuggling across the Indian Ocean: Impact of Increasing Interceptions

Maritime Silk Road: Can India Leverage It?

Indian Ocean: Multilateralism Takes Root

BRICS: The Oceanic Connections

India-EU: Exploring Maritime Convergences

Rim of the Pacific Exercises (RIMPAC): Thaw in China-US Tensions?

Indian Ocean Navies: Lessons from the Pacific

The Oman Gas Pipeline: India’s Underwater Energy Supply Chain

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.