Maritime crime in Southeast Asia drops to lowest levels for a decade

Dryad Maritime, a British maritime intelligence company, has released its Q1 2016 analysis of globally reported incidents of piracy and crime against mariners.

In Southeast Asia there has been a 50% drop in reported maritime crime compared to the same period in 2015; the lowest figures recorded by Dryad in 10 years. Similarly, the end of Q1 2016 represents the longest period without attacks on ships underway or at anchor within the Singapore Strait since Q1 2013.

Somali piracy continues to be broadly contained with no confirmed attacks on large merchant vessels since January 2014.

However, Dryad’s latest figures show that the Gulf of Guinea continues to blight an otherwise cautiously optimistic analysis. From January to March, the region saw a surge of industrial sabotage ashore, and offshore, the activity of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) operating with impunity in the face of overstretched Nigerian naval patrols has surged. 14 commercial vessels were attacked off Rivers and Bayelsa States, with eight raids classified as ‘unsuccessful’ due to evasive manoeuvring or the crew’s evasion of capture by retreating to their ship’s citadel. In six of these incidents, 23 crewmembers were kidnapped for ransom, which is proving a far more effective business plan for PAGs than hijacking product tankers for cargo (instances of which have fallen dramatically in the last 18 months), despite one unsuccessful attempt which was thwarted by Nigerian forces in February.

Ian Millen, chief operating officer at Dryad Maritime, commented: “The first three months of 2016 have visibly demonstrated the dynamic nature of maritime crime and how effective action to combat it can turn the tide in favour of the good guys. There are some welcome causes for optimism in certain regions, notably the Indian Ocean where Somali piracy remains broadly contained, and in Southeast Asia where we have seen a remarkable turnaround in a little over six months to deliver our lowest first quarter figures in a decade. In other areas, such as the Gulf of Guinea, the picture is a less positive one, with kidnap of crew for ransom rampant off the Niger Delta. Wider concerns, from the effects of civil war and concerns over maritime terrorism to the impact of humanitarian crises such as maritime migration, continue to focus the minds of all with duty of care responsibilities for ships, crew and passengers, but these are manageable issues with proper planning and support.”

The analysis also provides as insight into the diverse and complex threats that shipping companies and mariners face in other regions.

For instance, in the Meditteranean, 170,000 migrants entered Europe in the first three months of this year, more than eight times the 20,700 recorded through Q1 2015.

A total of 3,500 automatic rifles, 300 RPGs and numerous machine guns en route to Somalia and Yemen were seized by Coalition Maritime Forces in the Arabian Sea.

Millen concluded on a positive note, saying: “In Southeast Asia, regional security forces and law enforcement deserve much credit for the improving situation in the area, especially for combatting product tanker hijack and the 2015 crime spree in the Singapore Strait by tackling the criminal gangs at source and by deterring those that might be tempted to work for them through education and more effective patrolling. It is not a completely positive picture, with concerns over terrorist related, maritime kidnap in the Sulu Sea and a worsening crime situation off Vietnam but, all things considered, the overall picture is a very positive one.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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