19 JULY 2020
The number of piracy and armed robbery incidents reported in Asian waters has more than doubled in the first half of 2020 compared to last year. There were 51 incidents reported from January to June this year compared with 28 for the same period in 2019.
The half-yearly statistics were released by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre on July 16.
The center’s executive director, Masafumi Kuroki, said that it is concerned with the nearly two-fold increase in the number of incidents in Asia, even though most were at a “low severity level.” “Small crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts,” he said.
Most of the incidents in the Singapore Strait this year occurred in the hours of darkness and involved bulk carriers, although tankers and tug-boats were also targeted. Items stolen include engine spares, scrap metal and steel construction material on barges. The number of incidents in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore has climbed steadily from one in the first half of 2016 to two in the following year and five in 2018.
While the reasons behind the increase in incidents of armed robbery are not clear, Kuroki said that there was a need for ships to enhance vigilance and for law enforcement to strengthen surveillance and patrol.
The number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery reported in Asia waters were the lowest in more than a decade in 2018, with 76 incidents. This increased slightly to 82 last year.
Reports of incidents are collated from designated government agencies of ReCAAP’s 20 member states, which include Singapore, India, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and the United States.