Military leaders from four littoral states meet to tackle spike in robberies in Singapore Strait

Participants from the navies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand at the 14th Malacca Straits Patrol Joint Coordinating Committee meeting, on Jan 15, 2020. PHOTO: MINDEF
In a photo taken on July 26, 2019, container ships are seen moored off the Singapore Strait. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Senior military leaders from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia will meet on Wednesday (Jan 15) to discuss ways to combat the recent spike in sea robberies in the Singapore Strait.

The two-day 14th Malacca Straits Patrol Joint Coordinating Committee Meeting, hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), will be co-chaired by representatives of the four littoral states, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement on Wednesday.

On the agenda will be possible measures to strengthen information-sharing and operational coordination to deter and disrupt such sea robberies in their respective territorial waters in the straits of Malacca and Singapore, added Mindef.

An annual report issued by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre, based in Singapore, said that 31 incidents in the Singapore Strait were reported last year.

In comparison, there were seven reported incidents in 2018. The figure was eight in 2017, and two in 2016.

There has already been one incident reported this year, on Jan 8, where two perpetrators were sighted in the engine room of a tanker at about 4am. They escaped empty-handed without injuring the crew.

The ReCAAP advisory had urged law enforcement agencies of the littoral states to further step up surveillance, increase patrols and enhance coordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents.

The Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP), started in 2004, is a set of practical cooperative measures by the four member states to ensure the security of the straits of Malacca and Singapore.

These measures include the Malacca Straits Sea Patrol, combined maritime air patrols, and a group for intelligence exchange.

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Mindef said the meeting will conclude with the signing of the revised Standard Operating Procedures, meant to "strengthen information-sharing linkages and enhance mutual understanding and collaboration between MSP members".

The RSN's head of naval operations, Rear-Admiral Edwin Leong, who is one of the leaders attending the meeting, said in the Mindef statement that the straits of Malacca and Singapore are "critical and strategic waterways".

"It is therefore in everyone's interest to secure the maritime safety of the vessels passing through this busy waterway. Measures to keep the Straits safe range from vessels adopting best practices, to littoral states exchanging information and responding quickly to disrupt sea robberies."

The other representatives are Tentara Nasional Indonesia's (TNI's) Deputy Assistant to TNI Commander-in-Chief Operations, Air First Marshall Jorry Suleman Koloay; Malaysian Armed Forces's Assistant Chief of Staff of Defence Operations and Training of Malaysian Armed Forces, Major-General Hashim Aman Shah; and Royal Thai Navy's Chief of Staff, Third Naval Area Command, Rear-Admiral Prakob Suksamai.

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