Ships Urged to Avoid Philippine Waters amid Piracy Surge

Indonesia has issued a warning to all vessels to stay clear of transiting areas around the southern Philippines as the number of hijackings along the shipping route between the Philippines and Indonesia increases, according to Reuters.

The warning follows a recent surge in pirate attacks on the route, through which some USD 40 billion worth of cargo transits per year, as over a dozen seafarers were kidnapped by pirate groups linked to Islamist extremists, the Abu Sayyaf, while transporting coal to the Philippines.

As a result, Indonesian naval forces have instructed commercial vessels to avoid the areas around the southern Philippines, adding that the navy is working with the Philippines on increasing patrols in the pirate-infested waters in order to curb the hijackings.

Earlier this week, Indonesia suspended coal shipments from its Banjarmasin and Tarakan ports to the Philippines, while the measure could be adopted in other pots as well, as at least fourteen people were reported as kidnapped over the recent period from tugs and barges.

At the end of March an Indonesian crew of ten people were kidnapped when a tug and a barge were hijacked in the Philippines, followed by four more a couple of days later.

Reuters cited the Indonesian chief security minister Luhut Pansjaitan as saying that the country doesn’t want the area of the southern Philippines, where the pirate activities are most frequent, to become “a new Somalia.”

Furthermore, the US Department of State has issued a warning to US citizens “to avoid all non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago and through the southern Sulu Sea, and to exercise extreme caution when traveling to the island of Mindanao,” due to continued terrorist threats, insurgent activities and kidnappings.

World Maritime News Staff

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