CNA – The number of armed robbery incidents aboard ships in the Singapore Strait rose in 2022, with the strait now accounting for 65 per cent of the total number of incidents in Asia.
Fifty-five such incidents were reported in the Singapore Strait last year, up from the 49 in 2021, according to the annual report on piracy in 2022 from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre (ISC).
At a forum jointly organised by the ISC, the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), ISC Executive Director Krishnaswamy Natarajan said that the Singapore Strait remains an “area of concern”.
Most of the incidents reported were cases of petty theft, involving perpetrators who escaped immediately upon sighted by crew, the centre’s report read.
“The perpetrators were not armed and crew not injured. However, as the perpetrators are not arrested, incidents can continue to occur,” it noted.
Natarajan called for coastal states to continue to step up coordinated surveillance efforts to contain the situation.
The centre urged ship owners and masters to enhance vigilance, report all incidents timely and to exercise anti-piracy watch while transiting areas of concern and at ports and anchorages.
The annual report observed that the majority of the incidents occurred on larger ships including bulk carriers and tankers. The perpetrators were reported as carrying weapons in 18 incidents – ranging from a pistol to knives and machetes.
There were only two incidences where violence was used against the crew. In one incident, the perpetrators tied the duty motorman in the engine room, pushed him to the floor and threatened him. In the other, the second engineer was tied, blindfolded and pinned down to the floor.
Most of the incidents took place during hours of darkness, the ReCAAP ISC reported.
The annual report highlighted that the perpetrators involved in the incidents in the Singapore Strait are “opportunistic in nature and have no intention to harm the crew”.
“Their main objective is to steal items from ships and escape without being noticed by the crew.”
Successive incidents occurring within a short time period in locations of close proximity to each other showed the persistence of the perpetrator, the report read, warning that continuous boarding without detection or being reported to the authorities will “further embolden the perpetrators”.
“Other contributing factors include insufficient enforcement presence in the area, fatigue and lack of vigilance by crew during the hours of darkness, low freeboard and slow manoeuvring speed of ships.