Ships travelling in the Singapore Strait have been urged to be on high alert after pirates struck yet again on Christmas Day, causing a regional piracy watchdog to declare that it is concerned seriously about the sudden spike in attacks in the strait. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre said that since the perpetrators of those incidents had not been arrested, there was a possibility of further incidents in the strait. It advised all ships to exercise utmost vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures, and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal state.
The spike is worrying particularly because the piracy problem has receded since 2015, when 104 incidents - which include piracy attempts and actual piracy attacks - were recorded in the straits of Malacca and Singapore. Their maritime importance is attested to by the fact that almost half the world's total seaborne trade passes through them each year. Thus, they are a global chokepoint like the Strait of Hormuz, situated between Oman and Iran, in ensuring the essential flow of oil, among other commodities. This is what makes any piracy, attempted or successful, a direct attack on the freedom of international commerce. According to a study, South-east Asia was the locale of 41 per cent of the world's pirate attacks between 1995 and 2013. The West Indian Ocean, which includes the restive nation of Somalia, accounted for 28 per cent, and the West African coast for 18 per cent.