Violent piracy crime continues with attacks in Batangas

Satellite imagery of Batangas Bay, Philippines. Credit: IHS Markit AISLive ship tracking portal

Two cases of armed robbery happened on ships anchored in Batangas, Philippines, within a week, indicating a growing sign of violence in piracy and sea robberies in the region.

In both cases, the perpetrators threatened the crew with knives. The ship names were not disclosed.

In the first incident on 14 August 2020, the perpetrator entered the general steward’s cabin and threatened him with a long knife. After stealing the steward’s personal belongings, the perpetrator left the ship immediately via the mooring lines in a small unmarked blue motor banca stationed at the astern of the ship.

The second incident occurred on 20 August 2020 at 6 km southeast of the first incident. The duty crew was attacked by a perpetrator with a knife when he was performing roving watch at the main deck. He suffered a cut on his right palm when he accidentally grabbed the blade of the knife while trying to ward off the attack. The injured crew was evacuated and sent to a hospital for treatment.

The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB’s) statistics for the first half of 2020 show that the number of attacks involving guns and knives has risen from 35 in the second quarter of 2019 to 53 in the same period in 2020. Over the same period, piracy incidents have increased worldwide by 26%.

Piracy reporting centre ReCAAP ISC urged ship masters and crew to exercise vigilance, maintain constant lookout for suspicious boats in the vicinity, and report all incidents immediately to the authorities.

The centre said, “It’s also very important for the crew not to engage in a confrontation with perpetrators. The ReCAAP ISC urges the authorities to enhance surveillance, increase patrols, and respond promptly to incidents reported by ships in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.”

While Noel Choong, head of the IMB, told SAS that so far, many of the incidents in Asia are not violent, with perpetrators usually escaping after being detected, ReCAAP ISC said that piracy and sea robberies have been rising in the region.

At ReCAAP ISC’s annual capacity building workshop on 26 August, during which representatives discussed the latest piracy and sea robbery situation in Asia, the centre’s executive director, Masafumi Kuroki, said, “We’ve seen an increase of piracy and sea robbery incidents in Asia during January–July this year with 58 incidents. This is an increase of more than 50% compared to the same period of last year [37 incidents].”