KUALA TERENGGANU: A plan by 13 Indonesian pirates to rob and hijack Thai-registered oil tanker was foiled by a special team from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), near Pulau Tenggol today.
Swift action from the MMEA team led to the arrest of 10 of the pirates.
Three others however, managed to escape.
The drama began when the MMEA received a report from a local fisherman who spotted the pirates on a 'bot pancung' boarding the Thai vessel - MT MGT 1 - about three nautical miles from Pulau Yu Besar.
MMEA director-general Maritime Admiral Datuk Zulkifli Abu Bakar said the agency assembled a special team to launch a rescue mission. The team departed for the tanker's last known location via helicopter but when they arrived, found the tanker missing.
The tanker had 14 crew members, all of them Thai. It was on its way from Thailand to deliver fuel to Johor.
It is understood that the pirates, upon comandeering the vessel, had turned off its auto-identification system.
However, the MMEA's continued search paid off when they spotted the vessel at 2.05am today near Pulau Tenggol.
The special six-man team then boarded the vessel by rapelling down from a helicopter to take control of the vessel. However, three of the pirates managed to escape via a 'bot pancung.'
The pirates were believed to have successfully carted off some of the 2.2 million litres of diesel onboard before they were caught.
Zulkifli said no one was harmed in the incident. The vessel is expected to reach the MMEA jetty here tonight.
"Following the arrest of the pirates and their subsequent interrogation, we arrested the mastermind, an Indonesian in his 50s, at a hotel in Johor Baru at noon today," he said.
The authorities are now on the hunt for the three other men who had escaped.
The case was being investigation under Section 395/397 of the Penal Code for armed robbery.