Following closely on the heels of the littoral states of the Straits of Malacca asking for more funds to fight piracy in the Eyes in the Skies (EIS) program, yet another ship has been fear hijacked in the South China Sea.
This time, it is a Dominican-registered and Singapore-owned vessel, Steadfast, a tanker carrying 16 585 tons of vegetable oil that departed Palembang Indonesia on18 December 2005 and was headed for Singapore the following day.
The waters in which it disappeared are shared by West Malaysia on one side and the waters of Indonesian/Malaysian Borneo on the other side. Because of the geographical makeup of the waters in which it disappeared, the search operation is likely to be regional.
This is probably one of the first test cases of regional cooperation after the declaration of the resolve of littoral states to fight piracy and the launch of the EIS initiative, even pulling Thailand to join in the efforts And it is also an instance to test the coordination efforts between the regional navies/coast guards with international bodies like the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) based in the UK whose Piracy Reporting Centre transmitted special notices to all vessel, marine authorities and naval headquarters in the vicinity to help hunt for the ship.
Authorities, however, have kept the search and rescue efforts confidential without revealing which countries were involved in the search and rescue mission in order not to compromise the operation.
The Steadfast has 25 crew members and 16,585 metric tons of vegetable oil worth several million dollars.
*Missing tanker feared hijacked by pirates (CNA, Dec 21)
*Hunt On for Hijacked Singaporean Ship and Crew (Jakarta Post, Dec 20)