Eighty-two piracy, armed robbery incidents against ships in Asia reported in 2019

A total of 82 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia were reported from January to December 2019, comprising 71 actual incidents and 11 attempted incidents, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP) said in its latest Annual Report.

This represents an increase of eight per cent (six incidents) in the total number of incidents and an increase of 15 per cent (nine incidents) in actual incidents, compared to 2018.

Despite an increase from 2018, these numbers are still the second lowest since 2007 when the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ICS) started the report of incidents (2018 being the year of the lowest number of incidents).

The severity level of incidents has not worsened in 2019 compared to 2018:

  •  two incidents of Category 1 (same as in 2018)
  • decrease of Category 2 (from 8 to 6)
  • 69 per cent of incidents were Category 4 (perpetrators not armed, crew not harmed)

Areas of improvement

There was a decrease of incidents mainly at ports and anchorages in Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines:

  • Bangladesh: zero incident from 11 in 2018
  • Indonesia: 23 incidents from 27 in 2018
  • Philippines: six incidents from nine in 2018

Increase of incidents

There was an increase of incidents in two locations, compared to 2018:

  • The Singapore Strait: 31 incidents from seven in 2018
  • Off Bandar Penawar, Johor, Malaysia: five incidents from zero in 2018

Situation in the Singapore Strait

In 2019, a total of 31 incidents occurred in the Singapore Strait, of which 15 occurred in westbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) mostly from January to August, and 16 in the eastbound lane of the TSS from the end of September to December.

All but one of the 15 incidents in the westbound lane of the TSS were on board barges towed by tugs.

The stolen items were mainly scrap metals from barges (nine incidents). Since the barges were unmanned, there was no confrontation between the crew and perpetrators and no injury of the crew.

Sixteen ships boarded in the eastbound lane of the TSS were bulk carriers (eight), tankers (four), barges towed by tugs (three), and one very large crude carrier (VLCC).

  • In 10 incidents, nothing was stolen since the perpetrators escaped empty-handed once an alarm was activated.
  • In six incidents, items such as engine spares, scrap metals, locks and ropes, and personal belongings were stolen.
  • In seven incidents, the perpetrators were discovered in the engine room; this may indicate that they targeted engine parts.
  • There were confrontations between the crew and perpetrators; in one incident, two crew members received minor injuries and in three incidents, some crew members were tied up.

A medium-term trend in the Singapore Strait

  •  99 incidents in 2015, two incidents in 2016, eight incidents in 2017 and seven incidents in 2018, 31 incidents in 2019

Situation in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah

In 2019, there were two actual incidents of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah (two actual and one attempted incidents in 2018).

On June 8, 2019, nine crew were abducted from two fishing boats in the waters off Eastern Sabah, Malaysia; all crew were released on June 21, 2019.

On September 23, 2019, three crew were abducted from a fishing boat in the waters off Eastern Sabah, Malaysia; two crew were rescued on December 22, 2019 and one crew still remains in captivity.

As a medium-term trend, the number of incidents has been decreasing since 2016:

  • In 2016: 12 actual and six attempted incidents
  • In 2017: three actual and four attempted incidents
  • In 2018: two actual and one attempted incidents
  • In 2019: two actual incidents

The risk of abduction of crew still remains in the area.

Incidents off Bandar Penawar, Johor, Malaysia

In 2019, five incidents occurred on board ships anchored off Bandar Penawar, outside the designated anchorage areas of the littoral states.

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