In an effort to assist ships unable to re-route away from the Sulu-Celebes Sea and eastern Sabah region, ReCAAP ISC has published a new guidance with measures to aid the prevention of crew abductions.
On 26 September 2019, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) issued an Incident Alert following a crew abduction off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia. The full Incident Alert is available to download here.
This is the second incident of abduction of crew reported in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and eastern Sabah region in 2019, and the 30th such incident in the region since beginning of 2016. According to the ReCAAP ISC:
Despite the decrease in the number of incidents, and military and law enforcement efforts by the Philippine authorities, “perpetrators are still active in the region and looking for any opportunity to abduct crew from ships” warns ReCAAP ISC.
New guidebook and warning to stay alert
The Sulu-Celebes Sea and eastern Sabah region covers the tri-boundary area of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia and its maritime sea lanes are strategically located with respect to international shipping. In an effort to raise the awareness and avoid further incidents of crew abductions in this region, ReCAAP ISC has now produced a new publication, the Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah.
The guidance shares case studies of past incidents and advises on specific measures to be taken by ships while transiting the region. As a general principle, ships in waters off eastern Sabah and southern Philippines are recommended to re-route from the area. When this is not possible, ships’ masters and crews are advised to:
Ship operators and masters are also advised to adopt precautionary measures from general guidance contained in the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia and the Global Counter Piracy Guidance for Companies, Masters and Seafarers, such as risk assessment, company planning, master’s planning, ship protection measures, measures when ships are under attack, etc. Crews must be briefed on the security arrangements identified in the Ship Security Plan and should conduct drills prior to arriving in an area of increased risk. Many attempted piracy and armed robbery attacks are unsuccessful, countered by ships’ crew who have planned and trained in advance.
The contact details of the Operation Centres of the Philippines and ESSCOM of Malaysia are as follows:
In the event that those onboard are not able to establish contact with the Operation Centres of the Philippines as listed in the ReCAAP ISC Advisory, they can contact the Philippine Coast Guard Command Centre using the following contact details: