The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre (ISC) has released its Half-Yearly Report 2020 (January to June), showing an almost two-fold increase in the number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia.
A total of 51 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships (comprising 50 actual incidents and one attempted incident) were reported in Asia during January-June 2020. There were 28 incidents (comprising 25 actual incidents and three attempted incidents) reported during January-June 2019.
Of the 51 incidents, 49 were incidents of armed robbery against ships and two were piracy incidents. The severity level of incidents has not worsened during January-June 2020 compared to January-June 2019.
There was improvement at the ports/anchorages in China with no incident during January-June 2020, compared to three incidents during the same period in 2019. The increase of incidents during the first half of the year occurred in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and Singapore Strait. Of particular concern was the continued increase of incidents on board ships while underway in the Singapore Strait during January-June 2020 with 16 incidents, compared to eight incidents during the same period in 2019.
The threat of crew abduction in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah remains a serious concern as demonstrated by the abduction incident on a fishing trawler on January 17 2020 off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia and information of planned kidnapping by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sabah and Semporna, Malaysia targeting foreigners and crew of ships passing by the Tawi-Tawi and Sabah waters. Five of the crew abducted from the fishing trawler on 17 January 2020 are still held in captivity.
“We are deeply concerned with the nearly two-fold increase in the number of incidents reported in Asia in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year, even though most of them are at low severity level. ‘Small’ crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts,” said Masafumi Kuroki, Executive Director of ReCAAP ISC. “This spike has come during a time of enormous challenges for the whole world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we encourage the shipping community and maritime enforcement agencies to uphold vigilance, make timely reporting and conduct quick response to incidents, in order to protect the lives of seafarers and the safety of maritime transport.”
This regional sitrep is worrisome enough in itself, but when combined with the International Chamber of Commerce’s recent statistics on global piracy, it presents an alarming trend in the resurgence of maritime piracy.