The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reports that a total of 29 incidents of armed robbery against ships (comprising 28 actual incidents and one attempted incident) were reported in Asia during January-March 2020 compared to 10 incidents (comprising nine actual incidents and one attempted incident) during January-March 2019. This accounts for a three-fold increase in the total number of incidents reported during January-March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
All incidents reported during January-March 2020 were armed robbery against ships. No piracy incident was reported. The increase of incidents during January-March 2020 occurred in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore Strait. Three incidents were reported in Bangladesh during January-March 2020 compared to no incident during January-March 2019. Six incidents were reported in India during January-March 2020 compared to no incident during the same period in 2019. In Indonesia, six incidents were reported during January-March 2020 compared to three incidents during the same period in 2019. In the Philippines, four incidents were reported during January-March 2020 compared to two incidents during the same period in 2019.
Of concern was the continued increase of incidents on board ships while underway in the Singapore Strait during January-March 2020. Nine incidents were reported in the Singapore Strait during January-March 2020 compared to two incidents during the same period in 2019.
No incident was reported in China during January-March 2020 compared to three incidents during January-March 2019.
The situation of abduction of crew remains a serious concern as the risk of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah is high as demonstrated by the occurrence of an incident on January 17 off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia. ReCAAP reports that five of the crew abducted from the fishing trawler are still held in captivity.
Concern continues post-March. Between April 14 and 20, four incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia were reported to ReCAAP. Of the four incidents, one was a piracy incident that occurred on board a VLCC while underway in the South China Sea. The three incidents of armed robbery against ships occurred on board a container ship while anchored at Manila International Container Terminal Breakwater, Philippines; on board a bulk carrier while underway in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme in the Singapore Strait; and an oil tanker while anchored off Alang Anchorage, India.
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.