The Singapore Strait comprises 38% of piracy incidents in East Asia in 2019
Piracy of the Singapore Strait, incidents of robbery at sea multiply by four
There has been an 8% increase in incidents related to sea theft and piracy in Asia in 2019, particularly focused on the Singapore Strait, and the perennial danger also persists due to the kidnapping of the crew in the Sulu Sea region Sea-Celebes Sea, the anti-pirate guard dog ReCAAP said Wednesday night.
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Actual incidents, excluding the attempt, increased 15% year-over-year in 2019 to 71, while only in the Singapore Strait there was an increase of more than four times, ReCAAP said.
ReCAAP is the Regional Cooperation Agreement to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia.
A total of 31 incidents, or almost 38% of the total incidents in the region, occurred in the Singapore Strait, compared to seven in 2018, said Masafumi Kuroki, executive director of ReCAAP, while publishing the annual report of the watchdog .
“ReCAAP is concerned about the increase in incidents in the Singapore Strait and recommends that law enforcement agencies in coastal states improve surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly,” Kuroki said.
These agencies must strengthen joint coordinated patrols, share information about the suspicious vessel movement and the criminal groups involved to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators, he said.
The annual report of the International Maritime Office based in London, or IMB, has also shown a four-fold increase in such incidents around the Singapore Strait. “There is a sudden increase in attacks, especially during the night,” said the IMB report.
The shipping industry and ships should step up surveillance and monitor small suspicious vessels, take additional precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal state, Kuroki added.
Significantly, there were no incidents of piracy or theft in the narrow neighbor of Malacca last year.
While such incidents have declined around Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines, there is an increase in the Straits of Singapore and Bandar Penawar of Malaysia in Johor province, data from ReCAAP showed.
Singapore is located along one of the busiest waterways in the world, with about 1,000 ships anchored there at any given time. A ship calls the port of Singapore every two to three minutes, which brings the total to about 130,000 ships a year and makes it critical for the sea passage in the region to be free of piracy.
Interestingly, according to ReCAAP statistics that mainly focus on East Asia, piracy and theft at sea in the region have recovered after reaching their lowest level in more than a decade in 2018.
Naval experts said piracy is trying to revive at a time when geopolitical tensions have increased due to hostilities between the United States and Iran.
Kuroki also expressed concern about last year’s kidnapping of members of the fishing boat crew near Sabah, Malaysia, by perpetrators believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf group. One of the kidnapped crew members is still in captivity.
“Despite the decrease in the incidents, the threat of kidnapping of the crew still remains,” Kuroki said in reference to the Sulu-Celebes seas.
He said that ReCAAP maintains its advice so that the ships avoid the region of the Sulu-Celebes seas and deviate from the area, whenever possible.
Ships that pass through the region must exercise additional surveillance and maintain communication at all times with the maritime authorities of the Philippines and Malaysia, he said.
Since March 2016, 78 crew members have been kidnapped in the region, of which 10 died or were killed, while the rest, except one, were released or rescued.
According to industry estimates, from industrial raw materials, such as coal to essential foods such as rice, through products worth billions of dollars, they move in commercial ships near the Sulu Sea and the Sea of You celebrate.
Established in 2006, ReCAAP is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and improve cooperation against piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. It has 20 member countries, including all ASEAN members, except Malaysia and Indonesia, and France and Germany are expected to join ReCAAP in the future.