Piracy hotspot cooling off?

Beefed up patrols by the littoral states appear to be working.

Southeast Asia is the world’s hotspot for piracy, but could the worst be over? According to piracy watchdog, ReCAAP, there were 183 incidents of sea robbery or piracy in the region last year. Moreover, in the first nine months of this year there were another 161 incidents, leading to some to speculate the scourge could hit new records in 2015.

“High demand for illicit oil, together with a well-established black market, will continue to drive maritime attacks in Southeast Asia over the coming months, meaning small tanker owners face operational, financial and security threats,” warned maritime security provider PVI in a release earlier this year.

However, what is most noticeable is the recent drop off in attacks as littoral states around the Malacca Straits, Malaysia and Indonesia get their act together. The International Maritime Bureau notes there were just two hijackings reported in the third quarter this year.

“The robust actions taken particularly by the Indonesian and Malaysian authorities – including the arrest of one the alleged masterminds – is precisely the type of deterrent required,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan.

However, ReCAAP warned in its latest report this October that there was no room for complacency when transiting these waters still.

“There is need for continuous efforts to tackle these incidents by the authorities and shipping industry collectively and the importance of timely reporting by shipowners/operators/ masters, and prompt responses by maritime enforcement agencies,” ReCAAP urged.

The majority of the incidents reported during the first nine months of the year involved perpetrators operating in groups of one to six men, consistent with past trends.

In 83 % of the incidents, the crew was not injured, although there were reports of crew being threatened and taken hostage.

Captain Ashok Sabnis, founder of Singapore-based Goodwood Ship Management, tells Splash that the local maritime crime spree needs to be tackled by the tripartite system of cooperation between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“A joint force of naval patrol and rapid response teams would go a long way towards solving what has become a major problem for shipping in the region,” he says.

In response to the growing threat posed by robbers and pirates in the region the Malaysian and Indonesian navies did form a joint rapid deployment team this August.

UK security firm Dryad Maritime says this measure is not enough, urging authorities in the region to establish a permanent presence on the Singapore Strait.

More could be done to tackle the root causes of piracy, argues Matt Cannock from insurance firm, Markel International Singapore.

The CEO of the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore, Andrew Tan, tells Splash the republic is doing all it can to fight maritime crime.

“Tackling the sea robberies and fuel siphoning incidents in region will require strong cooperation between regional countries. On the part of Singapore, we have beefed up our security presence in our waters/area of operations and will continue to work with our neighbours to tackle the threat,” he says.

Fourth quarter piracy figures should paint the full picture.


This article first appeared in the recently published Singapore Market Report 2015, published by Splash. Readers can access the full magazine for free by clicking here.

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