Less piracy, armed robbery in Asia waters but 'vigilance still key'

An area of concern is abduction, said Mr Masafumi Kuroki, referring to three cases last year.
An area of concern is abduction, said Mr Masafumi Kuroki, referring to three cases last year.

There were 76 incidents of piracy and armed robbery reported in Asia waters last year, the lowest in more than a decade.

The number of significant incidents - which involved armed perpetrators, leading to violence against ships' crew in some cases - was 10 last year, the lowest in 12 years.

In the straits of Malacca and Singapore, there was a dip in armed robbery cases, from nine in 2017 to eight last year. Like in previous years, most were petty theft incidents and involved four to six perpetrators.

This information was released by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre on Tuesday.

At a media briefing, the Singapore-based centre's executive director Masafumi Kuroki urged law enforcement, regulatory authorities and the shipping industry to continue the vigilance and cooperation that has led to the decrease in incidents.

"In Asia, more than 90 per cent of the incidents are armed robbery against ships, which occur in territorial waters of the coastal states.

"The ownership and efforts of the coastal states in deterring, detecting and apprehending perpetrators are vital in reducing the number of incidents in Asia, as are the vigilance and preventive measures by ships," he added.


The 76 incidents last year, comprising 72 armed robbery and four piracy cases, marked a decline of 25 per cent from 2017.

The total figure was the lowest since the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre began keeping records in 2007.

The total number of cases fluctuated in the last 12 years, from a high of 203 in 2015, to 87 in 2016 and 102 in 2017.

The incidents are collected from designated government agencies of ReCAAP's 20 member states, which include 14 Asian countries such as Singapore, India and the Philippines. The Maritime and Port Authority is Singapore's designated agency.

An area of concern is abduction, said Mr Kuroki, referring to three incidents of crew abduction last year. This was nevertheless an improvement compared to 2017 which saw seven cases, he added.

On Tuesday, the centre also released for the first time results of its data analysis of 1,560 incidents it collected in Asia since 2007.

Findings include how the majority of cases involved four to six perpetrators (34 per cent) or one to three perpetrators (24 per cent), with 80 per cent of cases happening between 7pm and 6am.

The results were shared on Tuesday at the 10th Nautical Forum, which is ReCAAP's annual dialogue with maritime, diplomatic and shipping communities, attended by more than 150 representatives.

"While the results do not tell us if the same patterns will continue in the future, what happened in the past can be quite useful for the shipping industry - when they go to certain locations, what kind of measures they have to take," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Less piracy, armed robbery in Asia waters but 'vigilance still key''. Print Edition | Subscribe