Maritime Robbery, Hijacking Rising in Asia
Maritime hijacking is rising in Asia. The latest data from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reveals that incidents of piracy and armed robbery have risen 18% in the first half of 2015 when compared to the same time period in 2014. There were 106 incidents reported between January and June 2015 and just 90 last year.
Southeast Asian vessels are the most vulnerable to attack. In June, Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) released its fifth annual State of Maritime Piracy Report, analyzing the impact of piracy in the Western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Guinea and Southeast Asia. In 2014, about 3,600 ships were boarded by pirates and pirates enjoyed a 90 percent success rate in boarding targeted vessels.
The ReCAAP report states that a ship’s fuel and oil are primary targets, and financial losses are reaching record highs. The OBP report claims that the Gulf of Guinea lost $983 million due to piracy in 2014. And Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the International Maritime Bureau, estimates that up to 70 percent of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea are unreported. “This makes it difficult to assess the extent of the threats seafarers face in this region,” Mukundan added.
According to ReCAAP, 11 ships have been targeted in oil and fuel attacks. The victims piloted seven product tankers, two chemical tankers, one tanker and one supply vessel.
“Collective and concerted efforts are essential to address the increasing incidents of siphoning and hijacking of ships,” the ReCAAP wrote.
The rise in Southeast Asian hijacking prompted the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) to release a statement underlining the difference between armed robbery and piracy. The report states that armed robbery is confined to the territorial waters of sovereign states, while piracy occurs on the open sea.
The SSA states: “The distinction determines whether a merchant vessel can seek protection from the navy or coast guard of the littoral state or from the navy or coast guard of the vessel’s flag of registry.”
The statement also noted that the majority of reports are likely to be armed robberies targeting specific vessel types. The SSA’s findings show that only 14 percent of attacks on merchant vessels were classified as piracy, while 85 percent were cases of armed robbery. 46 percent of those robberies occurred while in port or at anchorage.