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The piracy reporting center ReCAAP ISC continues to warn about the many crew abductions currently taking place in the Sulu-Celebes Sea area - between Sabah, Malaysia and the Southern Philippines.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Center (ReCAAP ISC) has now published its November 2016 Report on Piracy and Armed Robbery in Asia. The good news is that ReCAAP sees a 60 per cent decrease in the overall number of incidents compared to the same period in 2015. Notably continued improvement has been observed in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) with no incident reported in the SOMS since April 2016. Also, no incidents involving hijacking of tankers for theft of oil cargo were reported in November 2016. The not so good news is the continued occurrence of incidents involving the abduction of crew from ships while underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and eastern Sabah region.

In November 2016, one successful and four attempted abductions of crew were reported in the Sulu-Celebes Sea area and since March 2016, the corresponding numbers are nine and four respectively. The report also makes particular note that, while previously only smaller slow-moving vessels such as tug boats and fishing vessels were targeted, the perpetrators are now also targeting vessels of larger tonnage. The report also highlights the incident alert issued on 21 November 2016, urging all ships to re-route from the area if possible.

Recommendations

Members and clients with vessels operating in Southeast Asia, and in waters off eastern Sabah and southern Philippines in particular, are advised to closely monitor the situation via ReCAAP ISC’s website (http://www.recaap.org/) and by staying in close contact with regional authorities and their local agents. A risk assessment should be conducted and the relevant preventive measures adopted, taking reference from the BMP4 as well as the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.

 

The following measures should be considered by vessels operating in the vicinity of, or transiting, the Sulu-Celebes Sea area:

  • re-route/avoid the area if possible;
  • continuously monitor the advisories issued on NAVTEX;
  • activate the vessel’s Automatic Identification System (AIS);
  • enhance vigilance and increase security watch rotations while transiting the area;
  • use CCTV cameras to cover vulnerable areas of the vessel (if available);
  • secure or lift external ladders to prevent external access;
  • firmly secure all doors and hatches providing access to the accommodation and machinery spaces and ensure that all emergency escape routes from manned compartments that have been secured can be opened from within;
  • sound the alarm if unknown people are sighted onboard the vessel or suspicious boats in the vicinity;
  • avoid confrontation with any perpetrators; and
  • report immediately to the following regional authority centers:

 

  1. Operation Centre in the Philippine Coast Guard District Southwestern Mindanao for monitoring and immediate responses in in all instances

(Sat phones: +63 929686 4129/+63 916626 0689, VHF: Channel 16 with call-sign "ENVY", Email: hcgdswm@yahoo.com)

 

  1. Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) when transiting close to eastern Sabah.

(Tel: +60 89863181/016, Fax: +60 89863182,VHF: Channel 16 with call-sign “ESSCOM”, Email: bilikgerakanesscom@jpm.gov.my)

 

Additional information about piracy, robbery and illegal violence at sea is also available on Gard’s website (www.gard.no) under the general topic “Trading area risks”.