The number of incidents in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) during the 1st Quarter of 2015 has doubled compared to the same period in 2014, Asia’s piracy watchdog ReCAAP Information Sharing Center said in its quarterly report.
During January-March 2015, a total of 19 incidents were reported in SOMS, highest among the 5-year period.
However, only one incident was reported in the Malacca Strait which involved the siphoning of fuel/oil from product tanker, Lapin. Incidents reported in the Singapore Strait were relatively less severe in nature.
The overall number of incidents reported during January-March of 2015 has increased to 38 from the lowest of 29 incidents reported during the same period in 2013.
Of the 38 incidents, four were incidence of piracy and 34 were robberies onboard ships. Of concern was the number of most severe incidents of siphoning of ship fuel/oil; and the increasing number of incidents (mainly petty theft in nature) in the SOMS and at some ports and anchorages in Vietnam.
Overall, according to the report, there has been an 18% increase in the number of incidents in Asia.
“This is largely attributed to the increase in incidents reported in the SOMS and at ports and anchorages in Vietnam. However, the situation at Indonesian ports and anchorages continued to improve during January-March 2015 as the number of incidents decreased to four cases compared to 14 reported during the same period in 2014,” ReCAAP ISC said.
Majority (83%) of the incidents reported no injury sustained by crew or there was no report that crew was injured. About 63% of the incidents involved crew either not armed or there were no reports on whether they were armed. Of the 35 incidents, three incidents (8%) reported that the perpetrators were armed with knives and guns; and 10 incidents (29%) reported the perpetrators armed with knives or machetes.
However, looking at the broader picture ReCAAP said that there has been an improvement in the situation of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the South Asian region as the number of incidents fell to its lowest among the five-year period (January-March of 2011-2015).
Possible reasons attributing to the improvement are efforts and presence of enforcement agencies in the region and precautionary measures exercised by the master and crew. Nevertheless, the number of incidents reported in the Southeast Asian region in January-March 2015 was highest among the five-year reporting period.
The ReCAAP ISC urged the littoral States to step up surveillance; and ship masters and crew to exercise enhanced vigilance when their ships were underway in the straits.
The piracy watchdog also encouraged ship owners and masters to report all incidents/ suspicious activities to the nearest coastal State immediately, and the relevant authorities to respond by dispatching their patrol assets to the location of the incident.