Stormy seas: Singapore deals with a wave of piracy

Piracy incidents in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore increased in 2019. What is behind the increase and how can Singapore keep its waterways safe?

By Joelyn Chan

The Strait of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) is one of the busiest trade routes in the world. Almost half of all global maritime trade passes through this marine corridor, which makes it a strategic point for imports from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Between September and December 2019, there were 16 piracy incidents in the SOMS, double the total number of incidents in 2018. With piracy threatening security in the strait, coastal states will have to unite to protect their imports.

What’s behind
increased piracy in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore?

The increase in piracy incidents has coincided with a period of reduced confrontation between pirates and seafarers in Bangladesh, the Philippines and other Indonesian waterways. It is possible that pirates are redirecting their attention to SOMS. But why?

Bilveer Singh, an associate professor in the department of political science at the National University of Singapore, told ASEAN Today that reducing the number of marine patrols was an “important factor” in increasing piracy.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia (ReCaap), an information exchange center, shared Mr. Singh’s opinion. The organization attributed the increase in piracy rates to the decrease in marine surveillance by coastal states and the complacency of ship crews.

The timing of the attacks also raises questions and exposes a potential vulnerability. Most of the attacks took place between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. It is possible that pirate crews are exploiting blind spots on patrols before dawn.

Also, as the perpetrators see the success of others,
Shipping channels suddenly become targets for pirates looking to capitalize
Vulnerabilities Around the holiday period, there were six incidents of piracy.
In six days. The perpetrators were not violent, suggesting that their objective
It was the theft of engine parts or other products.

Singapore depends on
maintenance of safe shipping routes

The port of Singapore is among the busiest in the world. Handles more than 36.6 million shipping containers per year, as more than 2.7 billion tons of cargo arrive each year in more than 130,000 ships. Keeping these boats safe is essential. Singapore’s maritime sector contributes about 7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

“Singapore is an objective because it is seen as a successful state with many vulnerable coastal objectives,” said Singh.

While the attacks may not take place in the ports of Singapore, and most were category 4 attacks (the lowest ranking category considered minimally violent) to preserve their appeal as a regional logistics center, the Navy of the Republic of Singapore ( RSN) will want to improve its response to the threat of piracy.

In October 2019, Singapore conducted exercises to strengthen the capacity of its maritime agencies to deactivate maritime security threats. However, Singh believes that an effective response begins with intelligence.

Lieutenant Colonel of the Navy of the Republic of Singapore, Tay Boon Chong, Chief of the RSN Plans and Doctrine Division, and Lieutenant Colonel Chew Chee Mun, Commander, Tactical Air Support Group, observe a Hellfire missile exercise from the guided missile destroyer bridge. The USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) during the aforementioned Training and Training Cooperation (CARAT) 2009. CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises carried out annually in Southeast Asia to strengthen relations and improve the operational readiness of forces participants.
The response to piracy begins with intelligence.
Photo: U.S. Navy UU. / Chief of Mass Communications Specialist Susan Hammond

He told ASEAN Today that the city-state needs “better information” to
properly contain piracy. He also added that underpaid law enforcement officers
they were vulnerable to receiving monetary incentives from pirates in exchange for
Your cooperation and protection.

Diplomacy kills piracy, not weapons

As regional marinas
they are increasingly asked to juggle piracy, smuggling and illegal
fishing operations, their resources are dispersed. To patrol the vast
Regional waterways, therefore, require extensive collaboration between states.

“There are too many
points out there that need to join and if any is weak or vulnerable, pirates
will take advantage, “said Singh.

Regional cooperation proved effective in stopping piracy.
In 2004, the three coastal states began trilateral coordinated patrols in the
Strait of Malacca Slowly but surely, the SOMS became a safer and piracy place
the incidents fell.

The Information Fusion Center (IFC) in Singapore acts as a regional maritime safety center and fosters closer maritime ties between states. Greater intelligence exchange between regional nations in this way can help save information and reduce navy response times in the event of a security incident.

For Singh, one way to build deeper ties is to encourage cooperation. Singapore can “use defense diplomacy to gain greater acceptance in our neighborhood to counter pirates.”

No perpetrator has been arrested so far. Although the recent series of piracy incidents largely resulted in material losses and were not violent, curbing the threat of piracy must become a defense priority.

Singh concluded: “Singapore cannot fight alone only regionally
piracy but we will definitely pay a high price if [regional efforts] fail,”
and adds, “While we are robust at home, we need to export this strength to our
neighborhood for a win-win result. ”

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