A regional piracy watchdog has called for heightened vigilance, after it found that the number of piracy and armed robbery incidents against ships in Asia increased by almost a fifth from 2016 to 2017.
According to the 2017 annual report of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia's (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre, there were a total of 101 incidents (comprising 89 actual incidents and 12 attempted incidents) reported last year, a 19% rise on the 85 incidents reported in 2016.
Of the incidents reported in 2017, the majority, i.e. 85 (84%) were armed robbery against ships, while 16 (16%) were piracy incidents. Two-thirds of the incidents occurred at anchor/berth (68 incidents), while one-third of the incidents occurred on board ships while underway (33 incidents), said ReCAAP, which released the report at the 9th Nautical Forum held in Singapore last week, organised by ReCAAP ISC, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Shipping Association The Forum is an annual dialogue with maritime, diplomatic and business communities.
There were improvements in some areas though. The report, whose information is verified by the respective government agencies, noted a decrease in number of incidents at ports and anchorages in India, Malaysia and Vietnam compared to 2016. Meanwhile, there was a decrease in the number of incidents of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas in 2017 (3 actual incidents) compared to 2016 (10 actual incidents). The severity level of incidents also decreased significantly last year.
Areas of concern
Some areas of concern highlighted in the annual report were the increase in incidents in 2017 off Chittagong and Kutubdia Island in Bangladesh, Batangas and Manila, Philippines, the South China Sea and off the Straits of Malacca & Singapore. Other concerns were the continued occurrence of abduction of crew in the SuluCelebes Seas and ship hijacking for theft of oil cargo.
“While the number of incidents in 2017 continue to be among the lowest in the past decade, the increase that occurred over the last year is a reminder that there is no room for complacency in the fight against piracy and armed robbery against ships, and underscores the need for enhanced vigilance among all stakeholders,” said Mr Masafumi Kuroki, Executive Director of ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre.
“The capacity of the maritime enforcement authorities is critical in dealing with the threat of piracy and sea robbery, and ReCAAP ISC will continue to work with our Focal Points and other enforcement agencies through our capacity building programs to help them become more effective,” he added.
ReCAAP, inaugurated in 2006, is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. To date, 20 States (14 Asian countries, 4 European countries, Australia, the USA) have become Contracting Parties.