(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) All incidents reported during January-September 2023 were incidents of Armed Robbery Against Ships (ARAS). No incident of piracy (on high seas) was reported. The ships boarded invariably were of low in freeboard and maneuvering at slow speed in restricted waters, and with crew ill-prepared while traversing the area of concern. However, perpetrators escaped empty-handed or aborted their attempts to board ships where crew were alert and vigil.
During the third quarter (Q3) (July-September) of 2023, a total of 23 incidents of ARAS in Asia were reported to the ReCAAP ISC. There was an increase in the number of incidents reported compared to the same period in 2022 (21). With the inclusion of 61 incidents reported in first half (January - June) of 2023, the period from January-September 2023 witnessed a total of 84 incidents of ARAS in Asia. This accounts for a 33% increase of incidents compared to 63 incidents reported during January-September 2022.
The increase of incidents during January-September 2023 occurred in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS), Thailand and Vietnam. Of concern was the continued occurrence of incidents in the SOMS, with 56 incidents compared to 41 incidents during the same period in 2022. However, there was a decrease of incidents in Bangladesh.
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-September 2023. The last incident of abduction of crew occurred on 17 Jan 2020. 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 Tawi-Tawi remains. 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 2022, and the ‘Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah’.
Through the Dialogue Session and Anti-Piracy Forum conducted by the ReCAAP ISC, the Centre engages the shipping industry in apprising them of the developing situation of piracy and ARAS in Asia with emphasis on the SOMS and recommends adopting best management practices to detect, deny, delay and deter the perpetrators from boarding the ship. Further, the ReCAAP ISC stresses upon the maritime community for timely reporting of incident to the nearest coastal State RCC for arrest of the perpetrators.
In addition, the Centre urges the maritime authorities and law enforcement agencies to cooperate, coordinate, collaborate and communicate in information sharing amongst the littoral States, and step up the enforcement measures both on land and at sea in their endeavor to suppress the occurrence of piracy and ARAS in Asia.