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The number of incidents of robbery against ships reported in the Philippines during the first nine months of 2020 has almost doubled compared to the entire year of 2019. Ships trading to the country should remain vigilant and maintain an adequate anti-piracy watch at ports and anchorages.

According to a special report published by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) on 25 September 2020, 13 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been reported in the Philippines so far in 2020 compared to seven during the entire 2019. Nine of the 13 incidents occurred at Manila anchorage, three at Batangas anchorage and one at the General Santos Harbour anchorage.

Due to the fact that the Port of Manila has been nominated as a crew change hub to help seafarers distressed by the pandemic, a large number of ships have been anchored in the area, providing increased opportunities for perpetrators to come alongside in small boats during the hours of darkness to commit robbery/theft from the ships, explains the ReCAAP ISC. However, it also reports that 51% of all incidents recorded at anchorages/ports in the Philippines since January 2007 occurred at Manila and 28% at Batangas anchorages.

While the majority of this year’s incidents are described as ‘CAT 4 incidents’, which means that the perpetrators were not armed and the crew not harmed, ReCAAP ISC expresses concern about the violence demonstrated by the perpetrators towards the crew in two of the three incidents recorded at Batangas anchorage. The report provides further insight into the incidents, the modus operandi of the perpetrators and the actions taken by the Philippine Coast Guard.

Recommendations

ReCAAP ISC urges ships’ masters and crew to exercise enhanced vigilance when operating in the areas of concern and implement preventive measures recommended in the “Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia”. In addition, the following recommendations are highlighted in the recent report:

  • Keep a proper, visual lookout.
  • Keep the ship’s surroundings well lit, keep flood lights on.
  • Keep a sharp lookout for small boats approaching close to the ship and do not allow any boats to come near the ship wherever possible.
  • Keep the ship’s forward storeroom double/heavily locked.
  • Keep breathing apparatus, brass articles (such as spare fire nozzles) or paint drums, in safe and secured stores.
  • Sound alarm when sighting suspicious boats loitering in the vicinity of the ship, or suspicious persons onboard the ship.
  • Report all incidents and suspicious activities in the vicinity immediately via Channel 16 to alert all ships in the vicinity, the VTMS and nearest Coast Guard Station.

As general advice, we recommend Members and clients with vessels operating in South-East Asia to closely monitor the situation, via the websites of ReCAAP ISC and the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre and by staying in close contact with their local agents and regional authorities. A risk assessment should be conducted and the relevant preventive measures adopted, following available industry guidelines.

 

Please refer to Gard’s website “Piracy and armed robbery at sea” for further advice.