Asian piracy incidents spike around Singapore in 2019, says ReCAAP

An 8% increase in sea robbery and piracy-related incidents across Asia in 2019 was particularly focused around the Straits of Singapore, according to the annual report from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

It also said that the Sulu Sea-Celebes Sea, which a few years ago was a hotbed of kidnappings by rebels against the Philippines government, remained a dangerous area for ships and their crews.

Actual incidents, excluding those attempted but repelled, increased by 15% year on year to 71. In the Singapore Straits alone there was a more than four-fold increase, ReCAAP said that 31 of the 71 incidents last year were in the Straits of Singapore, up from seven in 2018.

The recent International Maritime Bureau (IMB) report also noted the increase in Singapore Strait attacks, which were mainly for the purpose of theft rather than hijacking or kidnapping.

 “There is a sudden rise in the attacks, especially during the night,” the IMB report said.

There were no piracy or theft-related incidents in the neighbouring Strait of Malacca last year. The number of incidents also decreased around Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Singapore Strait is located along one of the world’s busiest waterways, with close to 1,000 ships anchored there at any given time. A ship calls at Singapore port every two to three minutes, bringing the total to around 130,000 ships a year.