Pirates release Vietnamese oil tanker after siphoning off cargo

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HANOI, Vietnam — A Vietnamese oil tanker missing for a week was released by pirates who stormed the ship and siphoned off some of its cargo, a crew member said Thursday.

The deputy captain of the Sunrise 689, Pham Van Hoang, said a group of more than 10 men, who he thought were Indonesian, armed with guns and knives in two speedboats boarded the tanker shortly after it left Singapore for Vietnam on Oct. 2.

He said the pirates destroyed the communication and navigation systems, and put all 18 Vietnamese crew members into a room. The pirates then siphoned off some of the gas oil into their vessels.

"They put knives on our throats and threatened to kill us if we resist," Hoang said by cellphone from the tanker. One crew member broke his leg when he fell trying to flee from the pirates.

Hoang said the crew was freed early Thursday and the tanker was about 150 kilometers (90 miles) off Vietnam's southern tip.

He said the crew had to stop a fishing boat to find out its location. The Vietnam coast guard was dispatching a vessel to escort the tanker to shore, he added.

The tanker, which was transporting more than 5,000 tons of gas oil from Singapore, should have arrived at a port in the central province of Quang Tri on Wednesday. Gas oil is a type of fuel oil distilled from petroleum.

The Sunrise was the 12th such piracy case since April in Southeast Asia, where tankers have been hijacked, and then released after the cargoes are stolen, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The tanker is owned by the Hai Phong Sea Products Shipbuilding Co.


Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

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