Singapore—A sharp rise in the number of robberies that occurred in the Singapore Strait over the past year has resulted in a call for better ways to ensure the safety of ships passing those waters.
In 2018, there were only seven such robbery incidents. Last year, however, the incidents rose to 31, with six robbery attempts recorded over a six-day period alone, from December 20 to 26. In contrast, in 2017 there were only eight cases, and in 2016, only two.
Fortunately, in the majority of the robberies that occurred in 2019, there were only minor incidents affecting personnel on board the ships. Additionally, the incidents almost always occurred at night or in the early morning hours.
Because of the spike in robbery incidents, the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) has called for the countries around the Singapore Strait to increase surveillance and patrolling in the area.
ReCAAP ISC said that 14 out of the 15 incidents that occurred in the westbound lane of the traffic separation scheme (TSS) of the Singapore Strait happened on unmanned vessels that were being towed by tugboats, which means that no one was harmed during the robberies. In these incidents, pirates took scrap metal from the vessels.
In the eastbound lane of the TSS, two ship personnel sustained minor injuries when pirates came aboard their ships. In three of the incidents, some ship personnel were tied up. The eastbound lane saw eight bulk carriers, five tankers, and three barges targeted by pirates.
ReCAAP ISC’s executive director, Masafumi Kuroki, said, “The shipping industry is advised to exercise utmost vigilance, adopt preventive measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal state.”
In Asia, there has been an overall increase of 15 percent in actual robbery incidents, with a total of 82 ships targeted for piracy and armed robbery. Among them, there were 72 actual incidents and 11 attempted incidents.
Mr Kuroki added, “The 15 percent year-on-year increase in the actual number of incidents in 2019 as well as a spike of incidents in the Singapore Strait are a stark reminder that government agencies and the shipping industry should continuously uphold their respective efforts as a shared responsibility.”
He also called for greater regional cooperation to ensure better safety for the vessels plying the Singapore Straits. “Regional co-operation among coastal states and mutual co-operation between government agencies and the shipping industry are key to ensure the safety of seafarers and safe navigation of ships.”
Last month, after a number of ships had been looted by pirates in less than a week, ReCAAP ISC said it was “seriously concerned with the increase of incidents in the Singapore Straits.
All ships are strongly advised to exercise utmost vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal state. The ReCAAP ISC recommends to the law enforcement agencies of the littoral states to further step up surveillance, increase patrols and enhance cooperation and coordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents.” -/TISG