Piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia

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(Image Courtesy: Equinor)

ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) released its Half-Yearly Report 2020 (January to June). In this report they point out that 51 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia during January-June 2020. Of the 51 incidents, 49 were incidents of armed robbery against ships and two were piracy incidents.

Of the 51, 31 incidents (61%) occurred to ships while at anchor/berth and 20 incidents (39%) to ships while underway. This tendency matches with past trend where most incidents occurred to ships at anchor/berth.

Compared to January-June 2019, the number of incidents during January-June 2020 increased by almost two-fold. Moreover, it is the highest number of incidents since 2016. The increase of incidents during January-June 2020 occurred in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and Singapore Strait.

“We are deeply concerned with the nearly two-fold increase in the number of incidents reported in Asia in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year, even though most of them are at low severity level. ‘Small’ crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts. This spike has come during a time of enormous challenges for the whole world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we encourage the shipping community and maritime enforcement agencies to uphold vigilance, make timely reporting and conduct quick response to incidents, in order to protect the lives of seafarers and the safety of maritime transport.”  said Mr. Masafumi Kuroki, Executive Director of ReCAAP ISC.

The majority of the incidents, 74% of the number of actual incidents, were CAT 4 incidents. This means that the perpetrators weren’t armed and the crew wasn’t harmed. In many CAT 4 incidents 1-3 men are involved who escaped empty-handed.

There was only on CAT 1 incident in Malaysia. On 17 Jan 20 six armed men abducted eight crewmen. Five of them are still held in captivity. This shows that the situation of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah remains a serious concern.

Furthermore, there were two CAT 2 and eleven CAT 4 incidents.

Most incidents happened in in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). Therefore, the ReCAAP ISC suggests increasing patrols and enforcement in the Singapore Strait. Ship master and crew are strongly advised to be very careful and to report any incidents, suspicious activities and presence of suspicious small boats in the vicinity to the nearest coastal State and flag State. 

“This spike has come during a time of enormous challenges for the whole world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we encourage the shipping community and maritime enforcement agencies to uphold vigilance, make timely reporting and conduct quick response to incidents, in order to protect the lives of seafarers and the safety of maritime transport.” continued Mr. Masafumi Kuroki.

But there are also some good news. There was improvement at the ports/anchorages in China with no incident during January-June 2020, compared to three incidents during the same period in 2019. Plus, there were arrests of perpetrators in Bangladesh, in India, in Indonesia and in the Singapore Strait.

Sue Terpilowski
Author: Sue Terpilowski