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Copyright 2005 Antara - The Indonesian National News Agency  
Antara - The Indonesian National News Agency

March 15, 2005

LENGTH: 706 words



Jakarta, March 15 (ANTARA) - The Indonesian Navy has deployed three warships to the Malacca Strait to look for a Japanese vessel and its crew members who were abducted in the strait on Monday night at about 8.35 p.m., an Indonesian Navy spokesman said.

The piracy occurred some 60 nautical miles north-west of Pulau Penang, Malaysia, Indonesian Navy spokesman Commodore Abdul Malik Yusuf said here Tuesday.

The location of the incident was actually closer to Malaysian territory.

Malik said the Navy had instructed three of its waships -- the KRI Tengku Umar, KRI Teluk Law and KRI Silas Tapare -- to look for the pirated vessel and its abducted crew members.

Japanese mass media reported the 323-ton vessel named the Idaten was hijacked in the Malacca Strait. Three crew members -- the Japanese captain, assistant to the captain and a Philippine crew member -- were taken hostage while the vessel was released and reported to have headed for Malaysian territory.

Meanwhile, five warships from the Indonesian Navy's western fleet command were continuing to conduct patrols in the Malacca Strait in coordination with Malaysia and Singapore, Malik said.

He said the Ambalat dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia had not affected routine patrols on the Malacca Strait as Indonesian naval vessels deployed to Ambalat came from the Indonesian Navy's eastern fleet command.

He said the pirates seemed to have taken advantage of the Ambalat case to commit criminal acts in the Malacca Strait, They might have thought that Indonesia and Malaysia were concentrating on their Ambalat dispute.

"We continue to keep up a tight patrollings schedule in the Malacca Strait.

However, we cannot cover every corner of the strait as it is too wide," he said.

On the possibility that groups other than the separatistGAM (Free Aceh Movement) often committed piracy in the Malacca Strait, he said it was possible.

Meanwhile, Chief of the Indonesian Navy's Western Fleet Command Rear Admiral Y Didik Heru Purnomo said earlier, the Navy was also still seaching for thje perpetrators of the recent piracy of the Tri Samudra tanker in the Malacca Strait.

"We have yet to receive detailed information on the piracy but we continue to look for the pirates," he said.

Tri Samudra tanker carrying about 1,300 tons of kerosene was hijacked on March 12, 2005, by a group of about 35 armed people when passing through the waters some 14 nautical miles southeast of Pulau Berhala in the Malacca Strait.

The priates left the ship intact but took the captain and chief engineer who are still uniedntified with them. The tanker was stopped by the priates on its way from Samrinda in East Kalimantan to Belawan, North Sumatra in Pulau Berhala waters in the Malacca Strait.

"We have towed the vessel to the naval base in Dumai, Riau province, for further investigation into the incident," Didik said.

Didik said combating or preventing piracy was the main objective of coordinated patrols in the Malaca Strait by the Malaysia, Indonesian and Singaporean navies launched in July, 2004.

"The number of piracy cases in the Malacca Strait waters had significantly dropped by about 70 percent but the recent piracy (March 12) is relatively big in terms of the number of pirates and arms they used," he said.

The International Maritime Bureau said in its 2004 report that data received by the centre for indications of piracy attacks and armed piracy in the Malacca Strait during January, 2005, stopped due to the Dec.26 tsunami disaster devastating extensive areas in Asia.

More than one fourth of international trade and half of LNG and oil traffics pass through the 970-km Malacca Strait and Singapore. Some 50,000 ships sail on the seas near the Malacca Strait every year.

Latest reports disclosed 93 piracy cases were on the Indonesian vessels (the highest rate during 2004) or about one fourth of the piracy cases in the world.

As many as 37 piracy cases were recorded on the Malacca Strait last year leaving many vessels burnt and crew members abducted.

In 2004, 36 crew members were abducted, four killed and three injured on international waters. It was reported that six cases occurred on the Malaysian waters.


LOAD-DATE: March 16, 2005