Pirates target five ships in Singapore Strait over three days

Vessel traffic in Singapore Strait. Credit: AISLive IHS Markit

Pirates attacked a total of five ships in the Singapore Strait on 20 and 23 December 2019. The first attack, on the bulk carrier Jian Fa, took place around 0532 local time. An unknown number of men boarded the vessel and left without taking anything or hurting any of the crew.

The Singapore police coast guard was informed, and it notified Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS).

Regional piracy reporting centre ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) said: “At 07-00 hours, the vessel informed Singapore VTIS that a search on board the ship was conducted and there was no sighting of the perpetrators and nothing was stolen.”

The 1996-built 46,489 dwt Jian Fa, owned by JR Marine, was bound for Lianyungang, China, when it was boarded.

Then at 2325 on 20 December, Great Eastern Shipping’s 2005-built Suezmax oil tanker Jag Lalit was boarded by six perpetrators armed with knives as it was underway from Mumbai, India, to Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Its crew members were assaulted, with the fourth engineer punched in the face and the chief engineer, whose neck was bruised, had his gold chain stolen from him.

The master of Jag Lalit alerted Singapore VTIS and diverted to Singapore to ensure that the crew was safe before proceeding on its voyage.

ReCAAP ISC said: “Upon the ship’s arrival in Singapore, the Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ships for investigation and verified that all crew are safe.”

Just 13 minutes later, Akij Group’s 2003-built Supramax bulk carrier, Akij Globe, was underway from Paradip, India, to Zhoushan, China, when five suspected pirates were seen in the engine room.

The alarm was raised and upon hearing the alarm, the perpetrators confronted three crew in the engine room. The five perpetrators escaped with a stolen engine and generator spares in a white small boat.

No one was hurt and the master of Akij Globe reported the incident to the Singapore VTIS and resumed its passage to Singapore. As with Jag Lalit, the Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded Akij Globe upon arrival at Singapore anchorage.

In the early hours of 23 December, some crew members of Aframax tanker Bamzi and bulk carrier Trust Star were tied up by armed pirates that boarded their ships, although nothing was taken.

Owned by Oaktree Capital Management, Bamzi was sailing from Indonesia to Qingdao, China, when the perpetrators boarded the tanker.

The chief engineer and duty engineer sighted three perpetrators in the engine room around 0012 hrs. One of the perpetrators was armed with a knife. The alarm was raised, and the three suspected pirates escaped immediately. Two motormen were later found to have been tied up, but nothing was stolen from the tanker.

The master reported the incident to Singapore VTIS, who initiated a safety navigational broadcast. The Singapore navy, Singapore Police Coast Guard, and Indonesian authority were notified.

Then at 0154 hours, Nissen Kaiun’s 36,338 dwt bulk carrier Trust Star was en route from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Huanghua, China, when the crew spotted six perpetrators on board the ship and raised the alarm. Upon hearing the alarm, the six perpetrators escaped immediately. The perpetrators had confronted and tied up two crew in the engine room, who later managed to untie themselves. The master reported the incident to Singapore VTIS, who initiated a safety navigational broadcast. The Singapore navy, Singapore Police Coast Guard, and Indonesian authority were notified.

The master of Trust Star deviated from its voyage and sailed to Singapore as he was not certain of the actual number of perpetrators on board. The Singapore navy and Singapore Police Coast Guard subsequently escorted the Trust Star to the Port of Singapore. Upon the ship’s arrival in the Port of Singapore, the Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ship and conducted a search on board. No one was hurt and nothing was stolen.

ReCAAP ISC said that due to the proximity of the incidents that took place on 20 December 2019 and 23 December 2019, respectively, it is possible that the same group of perpetrators was behind the attacks.

The piracy reporting centre said: “The ReCAAP ISC advises all ships to exercise enhanced vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures, and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State. The ReCAAP ISC recommends to the law enforcement agencies of the littoral States to step up surveillance, increase patrols, and enhance co-operation and co-ordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents.”