Anti-Piracy Group Reports A Rise In Armed Robbery Cases In The Singapore Strait

Cases of armed robbery in the Singapore Strait went up during the first half of 2022. Still, the incidents revolved around an insignificant proportion of vessels accessing the channel, Asia’s sea crime watch group Recaap Information Sharing Centre reported.

There were 27 reported cases from January to June 2022 in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, seven more than what was observed during the same period of 2021, the Recap Information Sharing Centre mentioned in its half-yearly statistics on 20 July.

The group added that there were more cases of armed robbery and piracy attacks in the Asian waters during the first half of this year, with 42 reported incidents compared with 38 in 2021.

Anti-piracy Group
Image for representation purpose only

Mr. Krishnaswamy Natarajan, Recaap Information Sharing Centre executive director, reportedly mentioned that such a rise could partly be due to the economic impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The situation may have compelled more criminals to resort to crimes at sea.

But he added that a rising trade volume traverses the Singapore Strait; nearly 1,000 vessels pass daily. According to him, the cases are increasing, but the numbers are insignificant compared to the massive traffic volume.

Mr. Krishnaswamy added that the increase in reporting could also show ship masters’ confidence that law enforcement agencies will respond to such threats.

Of the 27 incidents in the Singapore Strait, 19 took place in the Traffic Separation Scheme’s east-bound lane, with many incidents taking place off Pulau Nongsa close to Batam Island in Indonesia.

The perpetrators didn’t use weapons to harm or confront crew members aboard ships in all the scenarios but one. In this rare case, the perpetrators threatened a motorman with knives, pushed him to the floor, and tied him in the ship’s engine room. The motorman, however, managed to free himself. He also alerted other crew members, but the perpetrators escaped with the engine spare parts.

Most armed robbery cases took place after dark by about two to five perpetrators.

They mainly targeted larger vessels, such as tankers and bulk carriers, and ship supplies stole engine spare parts and scrap metals.

To encourage and motivate ship crew members to accurately report such incidents to the local authorities, Recaap Information Sharing Centre is expected to produce a catalog of fishing boats functioning in the Asian waters to identify perpetrators’ ships quickly.

This will enable the ship’s crew members to describe the boat to authorities when attacked by perpetrators, said Lee Yin Mui, the center’s assistant director of research.

The group said that the first half of 2022 experienced a decrease in piracy and armed robbery cases across the waters in Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

However, Ms. Lee warned that the threat of abducting crew members for ransom continues to be potentially high in Sulu-Celebes Seas and Eastern Saba.

She also added that commanders of Abu Sayyaf Group, a terrorist organization responsible for past notorious incidents, are still present.

References: The Straits Times, ReCAAP, XINDE Marine News

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