Monday, May 03, 2010

Hoax Alert: Report Of May 3rd Oil Tanker Explosion In Malacca Strait Off Sumatra Proves To Be Just A Rumor

A previous report by the Indonesian news source Antara News of an oil tanker explosion in the Malacca Strait has now been debunked. Antara News has now published an updated story declaring the previous report to be just a rumor.

Antara News had previously reported that a crude oil tanker was reported to have exploded in the Malacca Strait around 10:00 P.M. Indonesian time May 3rd, 2010 between the border of Bengkalis in Riau Province and Tanjung Balai Asahan, North Sumatra, based upon information provided by the Bengaklais Marine Police Unit. They in turn had received the information from one of the operators of PT Pertamina. Dozens of personnel from the Marine Police Unit were dispatched to the reported location, but after checking the area for two hours and finding no trace of a ship on fire, declared the report to be just a rumor. There is virtually no possibility that they could have missed seeing a tanker on fire; the smoke and flame column would be visible for miles.

PT Pertamina Marine Manager of the northern part of Sumatra, Heru, also denied the incident when contacted to ask for his confirmation, saying that he checked the story with Pertamina in Pekanbaru and found that no tanker had an accident.

No other mainstream media reported this story. There could be three reasons why Anatara News jumped on the original story:

(1). The Bangkok Post had reported that the Singapore Shipping Association said it had received an advisory from the Singapore Navy Information Fusion Centre about an indication that a terrorist group is planning attacks on oil tankers in the Malacca Strait. The strait is one of the world's major maritime choke points; more than 30 percent of world trade and half the world's oil shipments pass through the strait, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. See a map of the Malacca Strait HERE.

(2). Geographic proximity. Because of Indonesia's proximity to the Malacca Strait, Indonesian news sources would have a much more vested interest in this story than other sources.

(3). The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and subsequent oil spill. Cyberspace has been abuzz with rumors of sabotage and/or enemy attack. A report of a supertanker explosion so close on the heels of Deepwater would accentuate fear and paranoia. Indeed, two major discussion boards, Tree Of Liberty and Stormfront, jumped all over the original story.

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