Six piracy, robbery incidents in Asia in July

MPA patrol boat. Credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore

Regional piracy reporting centre ReCAAP ISC said on 12 August 2020 that there were six incidents of piracy and armed robbery in Asian waters in July.

Of the six incidents, which all happened in the South China Sea, five were sea robberies and one was an attempted piracy incident.

The Singapore Strait remains a target of pirates, with three incidents reported in July 2020.

In the first case, which happened on 2 July, a reefer ship, Frio Olympic, was en route to Dalian, China, when an unknown number of perpetrators were sighted on deck.

At the time, the ship was 10.7 km northwest of Tanjung Pergam, Pulau Bintan, Indonesia.

After the master raised the alarm, the perpetrators escaped immediately. The crew conducted a search on board and discovered that four boxes of ship stores were stolen.

In the second incident on 12 July, an Ultramax bulk carrier, Wolverine, was en route to Cẩm Phả, Vietnam, when three perpetrators were sighted in the engine room store. The alarm was raised and the perpetrators escaped. All crew were mustered at the navigation bridge. The crew conducted a search on board and updated Singapore’s Vessel Traffic Information System at 2:35 am that some engine spare parts were stolen and there was no further sighting of the perpetrators on board.

In the third incident, BS 27, a flat top deck cargo barge, was being towed by a tug on 26 July 8 km from Tanjung Piai, Johor, Malaysia, when two unknown crafts with three perpetrators on each craft were sighted approaching the barge. Two perpetrators boarded the barge and left after 20 minutes. The two crafts moved away from the location of the incident and were seen heading in a southwestern direction. The tug and barge resumed their voyages to Singapore. Some batteries were reported stolen from the barge.

The other incidents happened in India and around Manila, Philippines.

On 16 July, a Singapore-flagged offshore support vessel, MWV Falcon, was anchored at a jetty in Kakinada, India, when a crew member spotted one perpetrator armed with a knife on board the ship. The perpetrator opened the generator door and tried to steal generator equipment using a spanner. The crew immediately reported the incident to the bridge. The perpetrator jumped into the water and escaped after his presence was discovered. A search on board the ship was carried out and the crew found one firehose box was opened. Nothing was stolen and the crew was not injured. It was assessed the perpetrator had climbed on the jetty fender from under the quay side bridge to enter the ship, which was a blind spot on the main deck of ship.

The incident was reported to Kakinada port control and the local police. During the preliminary investigation, a few suspects were apprehended by the local police and further investigation is in progress. Enhanced patrols were carried out in the area.

On 20 July, a container ship, Newark, was anchored in Manila when the crew noticed that the padlocks of the bosun store and paint store were broken. Ship stores, including paints, welding machines, electrical drills, a jigsaw, electrical angle grinders, immersion suits, a face shield, cylinder breathing apparatuses, a helmet, self-contained breathing apparatus, and a chemical suit were missing. The incident was immediately reported to the Vessel Traffic Management System in Manila. The Philippine Coast Guard surveyed the area but no suspicious motor vessels were sighted.

In the sole attempted piracy incident, a small LPG tanker, Global Phenix, was 43 km southeast of Natuna Islands, Indonesia, on 8 July when five perpetrators in a boat attempted to come alongside and board the tanker. Seeing the approaching boat, the ship conducted evasive manoeuvring and directed the ALDIS lights towards the boat, which resulted in the boat moving away.

Following the high sea robbery and piracy statistics, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore launched six new patrol crafts to enhance its front-line capabilities to ensure navigational safety and enhance the protection of the marine environment in Singapore.

These 17-m patrol crafts have new surveillance capabilities, such as the multisensor marine thermal cameras, chemical gas detectors, and drones. Each patrol craft also has a rescue boat fitted with a man overboard recovery system and towing capabilities for small craft to support search-and-rescue operations. Equipped with a dispersant spray system and containment booms, the patrol craft can also be deployed to respond to oil spills.

The six new patrol crafts replace the existing fleet of patrol craft, which operated between 2012 and 2020.