New Guidance on Abduction in Sulu-Celebes Seas Released

Credit: ReCAAP ISC
Credit: ReCAAP ISC

Published Jul 27, 2019 7:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

The ReCAAP ISC has produced a new publication: Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah

Between 2016 and 2019, 29 incidents of abduction of crew (comprising 18 actual incidents and 11 attempted incidents) were reported to ReCAAP ISC. In the 18 actual incidents, 75 crewmen were abducted in total. Among them, 65 crewmen were released or rescued and 10 were killed or died. Currently, there is no crewmen in captivity.

Tug boats and fishing boats were the main victims of abduction of crew, due to their slow speed and low freeboard. Of the 18 actual incidents, 15 tug boats and fishing boats were boarded by the perpetrators who abducted the crew. The other three ships of actual incidents were two bulk carriers (less than 300 GT) and one general cargo ship. The 11 attempted incidents involved larger ships: six bulk carriers, two container ships, one product tanker, one general cargo ship and one ferry.

The threat continues, and ReCAAP ISC hopes the guidance will help raise situation awareness and avoid further incidents. The guidance consists of advisory on the measures to be taken by the ships transiting the area, including contact details and the Notice to Mariners (NOTAM) issued by the Philippines and Malaysia. It also shares the analysis of incidents based on the information collected from past incidents.

The ReCAAP ISC maintains its advisory issued via the ReCAAP ISC Incident Alert dated November 21, 2016 as follows:
- Reroute from the area, where possible
- Otherwise, ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance
- Report the incident immediately to the Operation Centres of the Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.

Ship masters and crew are further advised to:

- Enhance vigilance, maximize alertness of lookouts and increase watch keeping
- Control the access to bridge, accommodation and machinery spaces
- Maintain continuous communication with shipping company and enforcement agencies for monitoring and immediate responses in any eventualities
- Look out for advisories on NAVTEX
- Refer to the latest information available at ReCAAP ISC website (www.recaap.org) and other organisations
- Sound alarm when sighted suspicious boats in the vicinity or suspicious persons on board ship
- Avoid confrontation with perpetrators
- Report all incidents to the nearest coastal States and flag States in accordance with the IMO Circular MSC.1/Circ. 1334

Shipping companies and ship masters are also advised to adopt precautionary measures from general guidance contained in the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia such as risk assessment, company planning, master’s planning, ship protection measures, measures when ships are under attack, etc.

The Guidance was produced by the ReCAAP ISC in collaboration with the Philippine Coast Guard and it is supported by the Asian Shipowners’ Association and Singapore Shipping Association. The Guidance complements the general guidance contained in the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and armed Robbery against Ships in Asia produced by the ReCAAP ISC.