Sea robberies up three-fold in Asia in January

Malaysia Coast Guard. Credit: Malaysian Defence

Piracy and sea robbery incidents in Asia tripled year on year in January, according to statistics released by regional piracy reporting centre ReCAAP ISC.

Eleven incidents of armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia in January 2020.

There was one incident of abduction of eight crew members from a fishing vessel, allegedly by kidnappers linked to the Islamic State terrorist group, off Pulau Tambisan, Sabah, Malaysia in January 2020.

On 18 January, the Malaysian authorities recovered three of the eight kidnapped crew in the vicinity of Lahad Datu, Sabah. The remaining five crew are still held in captivity.   

In the Singapore Strait, robbers continue to target ships to steal spare parts and cargo, with four incidents reported in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in the Singapore Strait.

In one incident, Kim Hock Tug 9, a barge carrying scrap metal, was robbed twice on the same day.

Since October 2019, there has been a significant increase in incidents, particularly in the eastbound lane of the TSS in the Singapore Strait.

ReCAAP ISC advises the shipping industry and ships to exercise enhanced vigilance, look out for suspicious small boats, adopt extra precautionary measures, and report all incidents to the nearest coastal state immediately.

ReCAAP ISC strongly urges the littoral states to strengthen joint co-ordinated patrols, increase enforcement in their respective waters, and promote information sharing on the latest situation and the criminal groups involved in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.