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Bad Paint Job Proves Pirates' Undoing

Friday, June 26, 2015

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MALAYSIA--Professionals know that a slapdash coating job will always come back to bite you.

Now, pirates know it, too.

The coating failure of the hastily repainted product tanker MT Orkim Harmony led to the safe recapture of the vessel and the rescue of its crew last week, officials said.

Malaysian Navy

Parts of the rescue boat that the hijackers used to flee were painted black. But the hasty disguise faded after several days of exposure to seawater.

First, however, the quickie transformation of the vessel from orange to black allowed the pirates to flee through a "large-scale search and rescue operations involivng 29 military assets," Malay Mail Online reported.

Hijacking Hotbed

Armed pirates boarded and hijacked the small Malaysia-registered vessel on June 11 about 17 nautical miles off Pulau Aur, Malaysia, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reported.

The hijacking came one week after a similar attack and hijacking on Harmony's sister vessel, Orkim Victory, in the same waters.

Asia has been a hotbed of hijacking of oil-and-gas vessels this year, authorities say. In April, the International Maritime Bureau reported 38 pirate attacks in Southeast Asia—70 percent of the world's total— from January to March.


The Orkim Harmony was hijacked one week after her sister vessel, the Orkim Victory, in nearly the same location. Southeast Asia has been hit hard by piracy this year, authorities say.

Despite a multinational search-and-rescue operation led by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Indonesian Navy, Orkim Harmony and its multinational crew of 22—by then, hostages—eluded authorities for six tense days.

Kim Harmon

On June 17, a Royal Australian Air Force crew searching the South China Sea for the vessel passed a cluster of 20 to 25 ships and fishing boats and saw nothing amiss.

The team was nearly out of time and fuel but decided to make one last pass.

That's when they noticed the Kim Harmon, with no visible IMO number and a weird-looking paint job. Looking closer, the team saw the "OR" in Orkim and IMO number painted over on the bow and stern, the crew told New Straits Times Press in an interview.

Orkim SDN BH (top); Malaysian Navy via (bottom)

In just a few brush strokes, the Orkim Harmony became the Kim Harmon, authorities said. The disguise worked for almost one week.

The crew took high-definition photos and relayed them to Malaysian authorities, who moved in the next day to confirm the vessel's identification.

Coating Failure

The ensuing chase and negotiations consumed agonizing hours, but Vietnamese authorities finally rescued the crew and captured most of the hijackers Saturday (June 20), although some remained at large. Orkim Harmony's cargo of 6,000 metric tonnes of fuel was intact.

In the end, the paint failure made the vessel's identification easy, authorities said.

Naval Region 1 commander Rear Admiral Datuk Azhari Abdul Rashid told Malay Mail Online that the black paint chosen to disguise the boat was not compatible with the substrate and washed off quickly in the seawater.

“Due to the condition of the sea," he said, "the paint eroded as they headed to Vietnam and when authorities there found the boat, there were only remnants of the paint.”


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating failure; Coating Materials; Marine Coatings; Paint application; Paint Exposures

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