(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) The Asian region for the third consecutive year, received no report of piracy incidents on the high seas. However, the incidents reported are invariably Armed Robbery Against Ships (ARAS), which were of opportunistic and less severe in nature during the first half-year of 2023.
The ships targeted invariably were of low in freeboard, and manoeuvring at slow speed in restricted waters and ill-prepared while traversing the area of concern. However, perpetrators escaped empty-handed or aborted their attempts to board ships where the crew remained alert and vigilant.
The ReCAAP ISC during the second quarter (Q2) (April - June) of 2023, received a total of 32 incidents of ARAS in Asia. This accounts for a 68% increase compared to 19 incidents reported during the same period of 2022. With the inclusion of 27 incidents reported in first quarter (Q1) (January-March) of 2023, the period from January-June 2023 witnessed, a total of 59 incidents of ARAS in Asia. This accounts for a 40% increase of incidents compared to 42 incidents reported during January-June 2022.
The increase of incidents during January-June 2023 occurred in the Philippines, Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS), Thailand and Vietnam. Of concern was the continued occurrence of incidents in the SOMS, with 41 incidents reported compared to 27 incidents during the same period in 2022.
However, there was a decrease of incidents in Bangladesh, India and Indonesia.
There was no report of abduction of crew for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the SuluCelebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah during January-June 2023. The last incident of abduction of crew occurred on 17 Jan 20. No crew is currently held in captivity by the ASG. With the presence of the remnants of the ASG in the area, the threat of abduction of crew for ransom in Sulu and TawiTawi continues to remain. With the reduction of incidents, the Philippine Coast Guard recommended the downgrading of the threat in Sulu-Celebes Seas from ‘potentially high’ to ‘moderate’ which implies that ‘incidents are possible to occur, but are relatively less severe in nature’.
The ReCAAP ISC advises ships transiting the area to follow the advisory issued by the ReCAAP ISC as updated on 15 Sep 22, and the ‘Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah’.
The ReCAAP ISC has conducted Nautical Forum, Piracy and Sea Robbery Conference, Dialogue Session and also participated in various conferences/meetings organised by the international organisations. In all these events, the Centre engages the shipping industry in apprising them of the developing situation of piracy and ARAS in Asia with more emphasis on the SOMS and propagates to adopt best management practices to detect, deny, delay and deter the criminals from boarding the ship. Further, during such meetings, the ReCAAP ISC stresses upon the maritime community for timely reporting of incident to the nearest coastal State RCC for the arrest of the perpetrators.
The Centre through these forums/meetings urges the maritime authorities and law enforcement agencies to continue to collaborate, communicate, coordinate and cooperate in information sharing amongst the littoral States, and step up the enforcement measures both on land and at sea in our endeavour to suppress the occurrence of piracy and ARAS in Asia.
The ReCAAP ISC recommends that in view of the increase in incidents, particularly in the
locations mentioned in this report, the law enforcement agencies in Asia is required to enhance surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly to the incidents reported by ships, in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
Ship masters and crew are advised to exercise vigilance, maintain constant lookout for
suspicious boats in the vicinity and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State (referring to the poster on ‘Piracy & Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Reporting of Incidents - Contact Details’), and implement preventive measures recommended in the ‘Regional Guide 2 to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia’.
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