Source: International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

The number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery in ships in Asian waters reached 100 this year (until 27 December), up from 84 in the entire last year and a total of 82 in 2021, according to data available with the ReCAAP information sharing centre (ISC), a regional inter-governmental body.

Of the total 100 incidents, 63 were reported at the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) since January 2023. Indonesia scored second with 16 incidents followed by 10 in the Philippines, 5 in India, 3 in Vietnam, and 1 each in Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Thailand.

The ReCAAP ISC identified an increase in incidents in SOMS as an area of concern.

The regional body has advised the “ships to continue to exercise enhanced vigilance when transiting SOMS and the littoral States to increase patrols and enforcement in the area”.

This year until now, some nine Category-2 incidents happened in Asian waters compared to four last year.

The ReCAAP ISC has classified all incidents into one of the four categories based on a matrix of the indicators of the violence factor and economic factor.

The Category-2 incidents involve four to nine men who are likely to be armed with knives/machetes and in one-fourth of the incidents they are armed with guns. The crew is likely to be threatened or held hostage temporarily to allow the perpetrators to steal the crew’s cash and ship’s property including engine spares. In a few cases, the crew suffers a form of injury or physical violence but less severe in nature compared to Category-1 incidents.

This year some 30 category-3 incidents occurred in Asian water, also up from 21 held in last year.

The Category-2 incidents involve groups of between one and six men where the perpetrators were armed with knives/machetes/others or other items like sticks, rods, and bats. In this category, the crew is not harmed, although there were cases of crew subject to duress during the incident but not harmed physically.

Meantime, the ReCAAP ISC and the Indian Coast Guard December 11-15 co-hosted a capacity-building senior officers’ meeting in India where ReCAAP Focal Points and regional authorities exchanged best practices and discussed ways to strengthen cooperation to deter and suppress piracy and sea robbery incidents in Asia.

Senior naval and coast guard officers from 14 ReCAAP Focal Points– Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Thailand, UK, Vietnam— and representatives from the Indian Navy, National Maritime Security Council, National Maritime Foundation, ports and the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region attended the event.

The ReCAAP Focal Point officers shared how their countries are strengthening maritime security measures in their ports, anchorages and territorial waters to prevent and combat maritime crimes.

There were also deliberations on ways in which maritime authorities can work together with shipmasters and shipping companies to improve the timeliness of incident reporting, and how cooperation can be enhanced between land and maritime agencies to prevent piracy and sea robbery incidents.

Additionally, concerned over the rise in number of incidents in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore the ReCAAP ISC in early November held a dialogue with the shipping industry to discuss security concerns of vessels transiting the area. The SOMS saw over 40% rise in a number of incidents until October this year.

Sharar Nayel
Asia Correspondent

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