Malaysia, Sabah: Attempted boarding by pirates on passage from from Sorong to Kota Kinabalu – November 2015

Published 8 years ago, updated 4 years ago

On the 22 November 2015, at about midday local time, our 100ft yacht was about 50 miles south of Sibutu on a voyage from Sorong to Kota Kinabalu with a crew of 5 persons. ,

We deliberately stay south and west away from the southern Philippines due to security concerns in this area.

We suddenly had 4 small high-speed boats appear over our visual horizon heading straight towards us. We immediately reversed course to avoid them. The high-speed boats fanned out and altered course to approach from all sides at once.

We have previously had an issue in this part of the Sulu Sea 4 years ago when a Philippine fishing boat attempted to deliberately ramus. There have also been a number of other incidents involving yachts in the Sulu Sea that we are aware of.  As a result, we were as prepared as we could be to deal with incidents of this nature.

The small boats attempted to come alongside the yacht, but then rapidly backed off when they realized that we had an ample supply of large petrol bombs. A standoff then ensued where the 4 boats traveled alongside us, staying 20 meters away on both sides of us. They indicated we should stop. We did not and attempted to run them over – without success.

We also attempted to reach either the Indonesian or Malaysian military (of whom we had seen considerable presence) by VHF, without response. At this stage, we also issued DSC Distress calls by VHF and SSB. My wife and 2 children were secured in a hidey hole on board the yacht.

We then had 2 additional boats closing on us. I was concerned that we would be unable to deal with this number of boats. At this point, I decided to make clear that we were suitably equipped to properly defend ourselves. The 4 small boats retired in a panic to over a kilometer away from where they held a meeting with the additional 2 boats. They then stayed static on the water while we sailed over the horizon away from them. There were no injuries on either side.

We then cleared down the DSC distress with 2 ships in the vicinity who had responded to our DSC distress, advising them of an attempted piracy boarding. We asked both of these vessels to relay a report of this incident to the Malaysian navy, there was little other assistance they could provide.

On passing Sandakan the following day we reported this incident to the Malaysian navy.

I strongly advise avoiding sailing off the coast of eastern Sabah at present.

Name and contact details withheld on request.

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