Pandemic On The Seas: RISKS DOUBLED ON ASIAN WATERS
by Ligaya Caban
Incidence of piracy and armed robbery on Asian waters has significantly increased, reports the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP-ISC), an inter-governmental cooperative project.
Its “Half-Yearly Report 2020 (January to June)” highlights incidents almost doubled compared to the same period in 2019 as verified by the respective government agencies known as ReCAAP Focal Points, and regional authorities.
A total of 51 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships (comprising 50 actual incidents and one attempted incident) were reported in Asia.
This represents close to a two-fold increase in incidents and a two-fold increase in actual incidents; 28 incidents (25 actual incidents and 3 attempted incidents).
Of the 51 incidents, 49 were incidents of armed robbery against ships and two were piracy incidents. Severity level has not worsened, 74% of incidents were Category 4 (perpetrators not armed, crew not harmed)
No incident reported from China unlike three last year.
Perpetrators were arrested at Chittagong Anchorage in Bangladesh, off Gujarat and Alang in India, off Pulau Batam, Indonesia and in the Singapore Strait.
Incidents occurred in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and Singapore Strait.
Of concern was the continued increase of incidents on board ships while underway in the Singapore Strait during January-June 2020 with 16 incidents, compared to 8 in 2019.
The abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah remains a serious concern as the incident on a fishing trawler on 17 January off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia and information of planned kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sabah and Semporna, Malaysia targeting foreigners and crew of ships passing by the Tawi-Tawi and Sabah waters.
Five of the crew abducted from the fishing trawler on Jan. 17th are still held in captivity.
Companies are advised to follow ReCAAP ISC’s ‘Guidance’ and communicate with the Operation Centres of the Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.
“We are deeply concerned with the nearly two-fold increase in the number of incidents reported in Asia in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year, even though most of them are at low severity level. ‘Small’ crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts,” says Mr. Masafumi Kuroki, Executive Director of ReCAAP ISC.
“This spike has come during a time of enormous challenges for the whole world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we encourage the shipping community and maritime enforcement agencies to uphold vigilance, make timely reporting and conduct quick response to incidents, in order to protect the lives of seafarers and the safety of maritime transport.” Continues Kuroki.
The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) is the first regional government-to-government cooperation against piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. ReCAAP entered into force on 4 September 2006.
The Information Sharing Centre (ISC) was established on 29 November 2006 with 14 Asian countries; now 20, with 4 European countries, Australia, and the U.S.A.
ReCAAP-ISC enhances regional cooperation through information sharing, capacity building and cooperative arrangements. At the 12th Governing Council Meeting in 2018, the Council announced it has met the criteria to be a Centre of Excellence for information sharing in combating piracy and armed robbery at sea.