Phuket Customs were tipped off earlier in the day that the Sapwichai Nawee was to enter Thai waters to deliver the smuggled oil. Acting swiftly, they raced out to intercept the boat, which was escorted to the Deep Sea Port.
On board the officers found 50 oil drums, each containing 200 litres of fuel. The skipper, Somrit Thongsai, and two crew were arrested.
Smuggling of fuel from Malaysia – where diesel is much cheaper than in Thailand – is a lucrative criminal business.
Typically, a laden ocean-going tanker is sailed into international waters near Thailand.
The oil is then pumped into smaller vessels such as the Sapwichai Nawee, whose crews either sell it to fishing boats or bring it ashore for sale to trucking companies, at a significant discount from Thai fuel prices – yet at a significant profit to the smugglers.
Customs officers believe that the “Mr Big” behind the smuggling operation lives in Krabi. The crew are being questioned to see whether they can be persuaded to reveal more information.