Pirates target three ships in Singapore Strait

Bulk carrier Transpacific. Credit: Marine Traffic

Three piracy incidents took place during the first 20 days of October 2019 in the Strait of Singapore, according to a report by Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre.

In the first incident, on 30 September, the 81,247 dwt bulk carrier Transpacific, which is owned by Alpha Bulkers Shipmanagement, was boarded by five men who were armed with knives. A crew member sounded the alarm when he saw the men. However, despite searching the accommodation area, the suspects escaped.

The ship’s master then reported the incident to Singapore’s Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) and said the crew was safe and nothing was stolen. The Singapore VTIS initiated the safety navigational broadcast. The Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ship when it arrived in Singapore. A search for the perpetrators was conducted, and the Indonesian authorities were also notified.

Mirroring the events of the earlier incident, the second incident also saw five men boarding Euronav’s very large crude carrier Hirado on 18 October. The master raised the alarm and the perpetrators escaped. The master conducted a search of the ship, but nothing was stolen and there was no further sighting of the perpetrators on board the ship.

The master reported the incident to Singapore’s VTIS. There is no information on the weapons carried by the perpetrators. There was no confrontation between the perpetrators and the crew. The crew was safe and the ship continued its passage to the next port of call at Yingkou, China. The VTIS initiated the safety navigational broadcast, and the Indonesian authorities, Singapore Navy, and Singapore Police Coast Guard were notified.

In the latest incident, on 19 October, five men armed with guns and knives boarded the 90,086 dwt bulk carrier Nord Steel, which is operated by Denmark’s Norden.

The duty oiler sighted the armed men on deck and he was subsequently tied up by the perpetrators, who stole engine spares (including piston rings, oil rings, valve seats, valve spindles, and a crankpin bearing shell) and escaped through the steering room. The duty oiler subsequently informed the master who raised the general alarm and reported the incident to VTIS.

“All three incidents involved five perpetrators. Although there is no substantiate evidence, it is possible that the same group of five perpetrators boarded Hirado and then Nord Steel as the two incidents occurred within an interval of two hours and in close proximity to each other,” ReCAAP said.

The ReCAAP ISC recommends to the law enforcement agencies of the littoral states to step up surveillance, increase patrols, and respond promptly to incidents reported by ships.