When the Sunday Times of Malta broke the story about the tanker that ‘escaped’ from Maltese waters, I’m afraid my first reaction was much laughter. The headline conjured images of a vessel with AFM boats in hot pursuit. And my imagination is the sort to turn the whole thing into a Tom & Jerry like scenario, complete with cartoon animation and soundtrack.
Only, of course, in reality there is nothing funny about the whole story. A huge tanker doesn’t make its way out of Maltese waters undetected, not unless there is something very wrong with the way our country’s security is being run.
The reason quoted pending investigation is that the armed forces patrol boats were occupied with the EU festivities that were taking place around the Grand Harbour.
Which is all well and good, but leaves us with the obvious question: does this mean that whoever wants to plan some major heist in or around Malta simply needs to wait for the next national celebration? It beggars belief that no contingency personnel was assigned for potential emergencies unrelated to the festivities.
The second question is equally obvious: a massive 150-metre tanker doesn’t glide into the void without leaving a blip on some radar somewhere. Now, I’m not exactly the most conversant with security procedures, but I’m pretty sure that a vessel that size leaves a footprint on some equipment somewhere, before it makes it to no-man’s-land in the middle of the ocean. How come this footprint also went undetected until it was too late?
The reason for this is probably related to the tanker’s location within our waters – reportedly a considerable distance away from port. Which simply gives rise to more questions.
Given that it had been placed under a warrant of arrest, why hadn’t it been escorted back to port and kept under surveillance in the first place? Had this been done, this problem would not have arisen, because good luck emerging out of port undetected – particularly on that night.
I’m pretty sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that we expect some very concrete answers from this investigation. The pirate skipper of the MT Atlantik (well, allegedly pirate – the tanker’s ownership remains in dispute) must be having a good laugh if he’s following the Maltese news from wherever he escaped to.
Quite the Jack Sparrow, he is.