More piracy cases in Singapore Strait so far this year than in whole of 2019

Two more incidents last week took the total this year to 33, surpassing the 31 reported in 2019.
Two more incidents last week took the total this year to 33, surpassing the 31 reported in 2019.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - More piracy cases have been reported in the Singapore Strait in 2020 than in the whole of last year.

Two more incidents last week took the total this year to 33, surpassing the 31 reported in 2019.

A special report to alert the shipping industry was released on Monday (Nov 23) by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre.

It warned law enforcement agencies about "the current situation of concern in the Singapore Strait", and provided insights and recommendations to the industry players and authorities in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

The 105km-long strait south of Singapore is a key waterway for trade, and passes through the territorial jurisdictions of all three countries.

On Nov 17, the bulk carrier Asia Spring was passing through the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in the Singapore Strait en route to China, when three intruders were spotted on the main deck, said the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre.

The ship's alarm was raised and the crew were gathered. The three perpetrators escaped from the stern of the ship.

"The master reported the incident to Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System. Nothing was stolen and the crew was not injured. The ship did not require assistance and proceeded on her passage to China," said the centre.

The Singapore navy's Maritime Security Task Force and Singapore Police Coast Guard were informed.

The Indonesian authorities were also notified, and a safety navigational broadcast was sent to sailors at sea.

Two days later, on Nov 19, chemical and oil tanker MTM Amsterdam was also travelling through the eastbound lane of the TSS en route to China when two perpetrators armed with knives were sighted on the poop deck, an open deck area in the rear of the ship.

The alarm was immediately raised and a search was conducted on board the vessel.

But the perpetrators had escaped undetected, nothing was stolen and the crew were unharmed.

The ship master reported the incident to the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System, and the ship proceeded on her passage to China.

The Singapore navy and Singapore Police Coast Guard were informed, along with the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities.

The ReCAAP centre noted that the 33 incidents between January and November account for an increase of 43 per cent compared with the same period last year, when there were 23.

Although the majority were at "a low level of severity", the centre said it is "seriously concerned" about the continuing cases of piracy in the key waterway.

It explained that most are CAT 4 incidents, which means the perpetrators were not armed and the crew were unharmed.

"In some incidents, perpetrators were persistent in committing crime by boarding two ships in a row within a short interval and in close proximity," the agency noted.

It urged ship masters and crew members to be vigilant and immediately report all incidents or suspicious small boats in the vicinity to the nearest coastal state.

The littoral states should also increase patrols and enforcement in their respective waters, and share information on the situation and the criminal groups involved so they can arrest the perpetrators, the ReCAAP centre said.