Barge robbed twice in Singapore Strait

Robbery attacks in the Singapore Strait. Credit: ReCAAP ISC

A barge carrying scrap metal, en route from Singapore to Vietnam, was robbed twice in the Singapore Strait on the same day.

An alert from the Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) stated that on 18 January 2020, LKH 2882 was first robbed around 11:29 am local time. Seven perpetrators were seen on the barge and they escaped in two to three sampans upon seeing another tug, Kim Hock Virgo, approach them. 

The master of Kim Hock Tug 9, which was towing LKH 2882, reported the incident to the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System. The crew was not injured, and some scrap metal was stolen. 

The barge was again robbed at 3:51 pm local time. Seven perpetrators were also detected and two Singapore Police Coast Guard (PCG) craft were dispatched to intercept. The perpetrators fled in their sampans upon seeing the PCG craft. The crew was not injured. Several pieces of scrap metal were stolen. 

LKH 2882 is owned by Singapore-based steel scrap processor and exporter Kim Hock Corporation and has a history of being robbed. On 22 December 2019, the barge was also boarded by robbers in the Singapore Strait. Nearly five years before that, on 3 June 2014, LKH 2882 was also robbed in the same waters.

The incidents involving LKH 2882 happened 10 days after two perpetrators were spotted in the engine room of a BP products tanker, the 46,000-dwt British Mariner. The vessel was 6.2 n miles (11.4 km) northwest of Tanjung Tondang, Pulau Bintan, Indonesia; similar to LKH 2882, British Mariner was in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme of the Singapore Strait. The alarm was raised immediately, and the perpetrators escaped empty-handed, with no harm to the crew. The vessel continued on its voyage towards Hong Kong.

ReCAAP ISC said, “The ReCAAP ISC is concerned with the continued occurrence of incidents in the Singapore Strait, and the persistence of the perpetrators in their attempts to board ships as demonstrated in the two incidents on 18 January 2020. All ships are strongly advised to exercise utmost 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 further step up surveillance, increase patrols, and enhance co-operation and co-ordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents.”

Robberies and piracy attacks along the Singapore Strait have increased in 2019, with 82 incidents comprising 71 actual incidents and 11 robbery or piracy attempts, according to ReCAAP ISC’s statistics.

A representative of Kim Hock told SAS that the company is reviewing its security measures after the latest robbery.

He said, “We already have measures in place, but we are looking at how to improve to prevent robbers from boarding our barge in the future.”