The continued occurrence of incidents involving the abduction of crews from ships while underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and off eastern Sabah is a cause for great concern, according to the latest report by Asian piracy watchdog ReCAAP ISC.
In November 2016, one actual incident and four attempted incidents of abduction of crew were reported.
Between March 2016 and November 2016, nine incidents of abduction of crew and four attempted incidents in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and off eastern Sabah had been reported to the ReCAAP ISC.
Prior to October 2016, the perpetrators targeted local ships, namely tug boats towing barges and fishing trawlers.
Since October 2016, the perpetrators have begun to target ships of larger tonnage, including Dong Bang Giant No.2, Royal 16, Southern Falcon, Kumiai Shagang, Easter K and Cemtex Fortune.
Based on the description of the recent attempted incidents and taking into consideration the proximity and time of these incidents, the same group of perpetrators may be involved.
The ReCAAP ISC has urged all ships to re-route from the area, where possible. Otherwise, ship masters and crews are strongly advised to exercise extra vigilance while transiting the area and report immediately to the Operation Centre in the PCG District Southwestern Mindanao and the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM).
More needs to be done by the littoral states and the shipping industry to firmly address the situation of abduction of crew in the area, according to the ReCAAP ISC. In particular, the littoral states are requested to step up patrols and enforcement in the area; and the shipping industry is expected to adopt relevant preventive measures taking reference from the ‘Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia’.
The ReCAAP ISC also encourages the relevant governmental agencies to issue advisories to their shipping industries to warn them about the situation there and to adopt the appropriate anti-piracy measures