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Ships transiting the Singapore Strait should remain vigilant and maintain an adequate anti-piracy watch as the number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Strait jumped nearly fourfold during 2019.

According to data from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCaap ISC), a total of 31 piracy incidents, actual and attempted, were recorded in the Singapore Strait by 30 December 2019 compared to seven in 2018. While there is an equal distribution of incidents in the westbound and eastbound lanes of the strait over the last 12 months, 12 of the 16 incidents recorded in the eastbound lane occurred in a relatively short period between 23 November and 30 December 2019.

Unlike the incidents occuring in the westbound lane of the Singapore Strait last year, which primarily involved barges towed by tug boats, theft of tools and scrap metal and no reports of crew injuries, the incidents in the eastbound lane primarily involved bulk carriers (8) and tankers (5), with reports of crew being confronted, threatened and injured as well.

Recommendations for ships transiting the Singapore Strait

ReCAAP ISC has now issued a series of five alerts reporting on incidents involving attacks on eastbound ships in the Singapore Strait and voices concern with the recent increase of incidents in the Strait. The organisation also warns that “since the perpetrators of these incidents are not arrested, there is a possibility of further incidents in the Singapore Strait.”

Masters of ships transiting the Singapore Strait are therefore advised to implement preventive measures recommended in the ’Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia’, exercise enhanced vigilance, maintain look-out for suspicious boats and report all incidents to the nearest coastal State immediately.

Planning ahead is key! Prior to entering any piracy prone area, masters should review the ship security plan in light of latest information received, conduct a voyage specific risk assessment, brief and train the crew and prepare and test the ship’s emergency communication plans. ReCAAP ISC also provides the following list of actions which should be considered by masters if a suspected attack is imminent or an actual attack is in progress:

  • Sound the alarm which signals an attack.
  • Activate the ship security alert system, which will alert the company security officer (CSO) and the flag state.
  • Make an announcement in accordance with the ship’s emergency plan. The crew will then muster according to procedures.
  • Place the ship’s whistle/foghorn/alarm in auto mode to demonstrate to any potential attacker that the crew is aware of the attack and is reacting to it.
  • Put out a distress alert.
  • Ensure that the AIS is switched ON.
  • Increase speed as much as possible to widen the distance between the ship and the attackers. Try to steer a straight course to maintain maximum speed. Consider evasive actions if the circumstances warrant it.
  • Alter course away from the approaching craft if possible. When sea conditions allow, consider altering course to increase an approaching craft’s exposure to wind/waves.
  • Confirm all entry points/doors are secured and muster the crew safely and in accordance with ship procedures.
  • If and when a master decides that it is safe to leave the bridge, take all way off, stop engines and display Not Under Command (NUC) lights.
  • Switch on additional lighting during the hours of darkness.
  • Report the attack as soon as possible to the nearest coastal State. In addition, contact the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) by phone and follow up with call to the CSO if the situation permits.

Additional information

We also take this opportunity to draw your attention to the Maritime Global Security website, www.maritimeglobalsecurity.org, which is a collection of all security-related guidance produced by the industry, as well as links to other useful maritime and military security resources, and serves as a ‘one stop shop’ for maritime security advice.

Central to the website are the best practice guides to assist companies and mariners to risk assess voyages and detect, avoid, deter or delay piracy attacks such as the: