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Incidents Against Ships Declined Significantly in Asia in 2021

crime against ships and crew in Asia declines in 2021
Singapore Strait is one area of concern reporting the only increase in crime in 2021 (file photo)

Published Aug 13, 2021 6:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The number of incidents against ships in Asia declined significantly in the first half of 2021 falling to the second-lowest level in the past fourteen years. The six-month report on piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia released by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) highlights the decline in serious crime while reporting five incidents, including one where a crew member was threatened with “an improvised gun,” in July.

“The total number of incidents of armed robbery against ships in Asia reported during January-July 2021 has deceased compared to 2020,” ReCAAP reports. “However, of concern is the persistent occurrence of incidents in the Singapore Strait and the continued threat of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and the waters off Eastern Sabah (Indonesia).”

On the five incidents reported to ReCAAP last month, one however included a higher level of violence. It happened on July 17 in the anchorage in Manila. The duty watcher aboard the Maersk Nussfjord containership encountered an unidentified person at the forecastle of the vessel who pointed “an improvised gun at the back of the duty watcher’s head.” During the incident, the perpetrator took the watchman’s two-way radio and tied him to the railing of the ship. Seven other unidentified persons then boarded the ship, broke the padlock of the boatswain mate locker, and took away one roll of new spare rope mooring line. After they left, the watchman untied himself from the railings and reported the incident.

The other reports in July included two further boardings both in the eastbound lane of the Singapore Strait, which is a continuing area of concern for ReCAAP with a total of 22 reports in the first six months of the year. In one case, five people armed with knives were seen aboard a bulk carrier but left without stealing anything, and another sighting was of a single individual also armed with a knife who was discovered and left without taking anything. There were also two other incidents where equipment was stolen ranging from fire hose couplings to power tools and a welding machine in anchorages in Manila and Indonesia.

Despite these reports, overall incidents in Asia were down by a third in the first half of 2021 versus 2020. According to ReCAAP, it is the second-lowest level between January to July from 2007 to 2021. They further reported that there were no incidents of piracy and no crew were abducted in 2021. Currently, ReCAAP is not aware of any cases where crew members are being held in captivity in Asia.

Beyond the increase in incidents in the Singapore Strait, ReCAAP says the majority of reports were from the Philippines and Indonesia. There were only three reports in Indian and two in Vietnam, while there were none in Bangladesh, the South China Sea, or the Sulu-Celebes Seas in the first half of 2021.

Of the 41 total incidents reported this year, in nearly two-thirds the perpetrators were not armed, often fled when they were discovered, and no crew was harmed. 

ReCAAP credits the ongoing patrols and law enforcement efforts as well as reporting. They however cautioned that until the perpetrators are arrested incidents are likely to continue and that heightened vigilance must be maintained.