Piracy in Asian waters up significantly in 2020

The number of piracy and armed robbery incidents reported in Asian waters increased significantly in H1 2020 compared to the same period last year, reported Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre on July 16th in its half-year summary. There were 51 incidents reported from January to June 2020, compared with 28 for the same period in 2019.

The 51 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships comprised 50 actual incidents and one attempted incident. The 28 incidents in H1 2019 comprised 25 actual incidents and three attempted incidents.

Of the 51 incidents, 49 were incidents of armed robbery against ships and two were piracy incidents.

ReCAAP said that the continued increase of incidents on board ships while underway in the Singapore Strait was a matter for concern. There were 16 such incidents in H1 2020 compared to eight in H1 2019.

There was improvement at the ports/anchorages in China, with no incident reported during January-June 2020, compared to three incidents during the same period in 2019.

The threat of crew abduction in the SuluCelebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah remained a serious concern.

ReCAAP executive director Masafumi Kuroki said that it was concerned at the nearly two-fold increase in the number of incidents in Asia, even though most were at a “low severity level.” “Small crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts,” he said.

Most of the incidents in the Singapore Strait this year have occurred in the hours of darkness and involved bulk carriers, although tankers and tug-boats were also targeted. Items stolen include engine spares, scrap metal and steel construction material on barges. The number of incidents in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore has climbed steadily from one in the first half of 2016 to two in the following year and five in 2018.

The reasons behind the increase in incidents of armed robbery were not clear, but Kuroki said that there was a need for ships to enhance vigilance and for law enforcement to strengthen surveillance and patrol.

Reports of incidents are collated from designated government agencies of ReCAAP’s 20 member states, which include Singapore, India, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and the United States.