Pirates across the world are increasingly ditching cargo theft in favour of abducting crews for ransom, delegates attending a conference in Singapore were told today.
ReCAAP, the multinational Asian piracy watchdog, organised a piracy seminar as part of the ongoing Singapore Maritime Week.
Christopher Trelawney, the special advisor on maritime security to the IMO secretary-general, made the observation about hostage taking growing over cargo theft during his speech this morning. He said this had been seen not just in Southeast Asia, but also West Africa and was also threatening to return to the Horn of Africa.
Regarding Somalia, which has returned to the headlines this year following a spate of attacks after a five-year hiatus, Trelawney cautioned that Somali piracy had never been eradicated, rather it had been contained.
“Somali attacks are continuing and we stress the need for effective self protection for shipping,” Trelawney said, adding: “If navies withdraw and industry drops its guard piracy will return.”
Intertanko’s marine director Dr Phillip Belcher said that piracy is a “tropical disease”. On Somalia, Belcher said: “Unfortunately we are going to have to spend some more money there.”
Dr Pornchai Danvivathana, chair of the ReCAAP governing council, focused more on Southeast Asian piracy issues in his opening address. The Philippine terrorist organisation Abu Sayyaf, linked to many abductions of late, he branded as an “emerging threat in regional maritime safety”.
Despite a 12% decrease in the number of local piracy incidents in the first few months of the year, Danvivathana cautioned those attending the event that there was still no room for complacency especially as crew abductions continue.