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Further to our Alert of 24 August 2015 highlighting a continuing trend in Southeast Asia of the hijacking of small coastal tankers by maritime pirates, ReCAAP incident report no. 07/2015 issued last week reported a recent spike in petty theft incidents on the night of 21 and 22 August in the waters covering the Straits of Malacca and the Singapore TSS.

Although there have been a recent increase in the number of attacks on smaller, slow moving coastal tankers with low freeboards carrying bunker and petrochemical products, these latest attacks are different as they took place on larger vessels underway in the Singapore Straits at the time. The incidents appear to have been intended to facilitate petty thefts, rather than the full scale theft of the cargo.

The vessels were transiting the east bound lane close to Indonesian waters and the attacks were carried out within a 28 hour period and mostly during the hours of darkness. Looking at the short time span between the attacks and their geographical proximity, it has been assumed that all the pirates were from the same group consisting of 4-5 robbers armed with knives. Out of the six attacks, only one vessel reported stolen crew effects and belongings. Reportedly, the pirates did not confront the crew or cause any damage to the ship’s property and fled as soon as they were sighted on board the vessel. No crew injuries/casualties have been reported onboard any of the vessels.

Illustration of the geographical coordinates, timeframe and type of vessels involved in the six attacks. Source: ReCAAP incident report no. 07/2015.

Recommendations

In most of the above mentioned attacks, the pirates were successful in boarding the vessels “undetected” which clearly indicates the challenge facing crews when transiting the straits of Malacca and Singapore. Vigilance and readiness of the crew, especially during the hours of darkness, are therefore key measures to prevent the initial boarding by the pirates. Members and clients should therefore alert their vessels trading in the region to the heightened piracy activities and to consider the below recommendations;

  1. Carry out risk assessments by reviewing threat characteristics and the intended route,      considering their own ships’ vulnerability and defensive measures and by evaluating crew competence and training levels. Implement measures based on the identified level of risk.
  2. Exercise extra vigilance and keep a sharp lookout while operating in areas of concern. Ensure crew members are proficient in standard watchtower procedures and practice anti-piracy training and procedures for the crew.
  1. Monitor movements of all small crafts by sight and RADAR and report all suspicious activities to the Singapore VTIS.

Best Management Practices (BMP4) was drafted for protection against Somalia-based piracy, but many of the observations and recommendations are also relevant to Southeast Asia. By following these recommendations, owners and vessels will improve and maintain security standards and avoid unnecessary risks. In most of the above mentioned cases it was reported that the robbers escaped empty-handed, after the crew had been alerted.