The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP)’s annual report reveals that 97 incidents were reported to its Information Sharing Center (ISC) in 2020.
The 97 incidents of piracy and armed robbery included 95 actual incidents and 2 attempted incidents. This represents an increase of 17% in the total number of incidents and a 32% increase in actual incidents, compared to 2019. The increase of incidents occurred in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and Singapore Strait. Of the 97 incidents, 93 were armed robbery against ships, while 4 were piracy.
Despite the increase of incidents, the severity level of incidents (violence to crew, stolen items) remained moderate. There was one CAT1 (the most severe) incident, while 74% of incidents were CAT4 (perpetrators not armed and crew not harmed).
ReCAAP noted two areas of particular concern – the Singapore Strait and Sulu-Celebes Seas.
A total of 34 ISC reported incidents (compared to 31 in 2019) occurred in the Singapore Strait, of which 30 occurred in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme.
In the Sulu-Celebes Seas, there was just one incident of abduction of crew from ships in 2020. However, ReCAAP says the threat of abduction of crew still remains in the area. Since March 2016, a total of 86 crew were abducted in the area. As of today, four of them still remain in captivity.
ReCAAP reports some improvement at anchorages in China (no incident in 2020 compared to three in 2019) and Malaysia (three incidents in 2020 compared to eight in 2019). In addition, perpetrators were arrested in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Singapore Strait illustrating strong anti-piracy efforts in the region.
The annual report was released at the 12th Nautical Forum which was attended by about 100 participants from shipping companies, shipping associations, government/regulatory agencies, diplomatic missions as well as academic institutions. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of shipping for global trade. The 32% year-on-year increase in the actual incidents in 2020 is a stark reminder that more needs to be done to enhance the safety of maritime transport and safeguard the well-being of crew,” said Mr. Masafumi Kuroki, Executive Director of ReCAAP ISC. “Beyond vigilance, timely reporting by ships, enhanced patrol by enforcement agencies, as well as cooperation between littoral States, we believe that arrest and bringing perpetrators to justice is an essential deterrence to stop the increase of incidents. We urge the littoral States to take seriously petty theft and sea robbery because leaving criminals to continue their crime with impunity will only embolden them to escalate their acts,” concluded Mr. Masafumi Kuroki.