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Bulker's Master Injured in Armed Robbery in Strait of Malacca

Pirates in the Singapore Strait (Singapore IFC)
Suspected pirates in the Singapore Strait (Singapore IFC)

Published Oct 30, 2023 2:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

Pirate boardings are a regular occurrence in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and usually amount to petty theft targeting soft targets - scrap metal stolen from towed barges or spare parts pilfered from ships. Though crewmembers are occasionally threatened, the robbers usually flee when confronted, and injuries are relatively rare. Last week, however, the master of a bulker was injured during a case of maritime robbery in the Strait of Malacca. 

According to Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA), the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre for the region was notified of a boarding and robbery on a Marshall Islands-flagged bulker at 0430 hours on Friday morning. The vessel was located outside of Singapore's territorial seas, and was headed east for Singapore. 

The MRCC directed the ship to anchor off Singapore's western shores so that coast guard officers could board it and search it. The search turned up nothing missing. 

The master was hurt during the incident, and MPA said that he was in stable condition. He has been taken ashore for treatment. The nature of the injury was not described. 

According to the weekly statistics provided by the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre, it was at least the third armed robbery involving a bulker in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore last week. On October 23 and 24, two other incidents occurred, both involving several male robbers carrying knives. One of the instances resulted in the theft of ship's stores. 

All told, at least 62 incidents of armed robbery have been reported in the Straits since January 2023, including Friday's boarding. The three hotspots are at Pulau Karimun, near the eastern entrance of the Strait of Malacca; Pulau Cula, near Phillip Channel at the southernmost corner of the Straits' traffic separation scheme; and Tanjun Tondong, near the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait. The robbers usually work at night, and strongly prefer to target slow-moving bulkers in the eastbound lane, which is closer to Indonesia. 

"The ReCAAP ISC is concerned with the continued occurrence of incidents in the SOMS. The Centre advises ships to continue to exercise enhanced vigilance when transiting SOMS; and the littoral States to increase patrols and enforcement in the area," the organization said in a statement. 

Armed robberies of varying severity in the SOMS area. Of these, only Category 2 incidents involve assault or injury (Courtesy ReCAAP ISC)