A total of 75 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships (comprising 73 actual incidents and two attempted incidents) were reported in Asia during January-September 2020, reports the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). This is compared to 54 incidents (comprising 49 actual incidents and five attempted incidents) during January-September 2019, accounting for an increase of 39% in the total number of incidents reported during January-September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Of the 75 incidents, 71 were incidents of armed robbery against ships and four were piracy incidents. The increase of incidents during January-September 2020 occurred in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and Singapore Strait. However, there was improvement at the ports/anchorages in China and Malaysia during January-September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Of concern was the continued increase of incidents on board ships while underway in the Singapore Strait during January-September 2020 with 22 incidents, compared to 15 incidents during the same period in 2019.
The situation of abduction of crew in the SuluCelebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah remains a serious concern as demonstrated by the abduction incident on a fishing trawler on January 17 off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia where five crew were abducted; and information of planned kidnapping by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sabah and Semporna, Malaysia targeting ships passing by Tawi-Tawi and Sabah waters. On September 29, the body of one of the five abducted crew from the fishing trawler was found during a military operation in Patikul, Sulu. Four crew are still held in captivity. Shipping companies are advised to follow ReCAAP’s ‘Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah’ and maintain communication with the Operation Centres of the Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command of Malaysia.
Also of concern was the increase of the number of incidents at Manila and Batangas anchorages/ports in the Philippines during January-September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. ReCAAP advises special measures to be taken by ships anchored/berthed in the area.
In view of the increase of incidents, ReCAAP reiterates the need for law enforcement agencies to enhance surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly to incidents reported by ships in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. Ship masters and crew are strongly advised to exercise vigilance, maintain constant lookout for suspicious boats in the vicinity, report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State, and implement preventive measures.