ReCAAP: Increase in Boardings and Armed Robbery in Singapore Strait

increase in armed robbery in the Singapore Strait
Recent incidents in Singapore Strait - file photo of anchorage

Published Oct 26, 2020 2:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ten days after reporting an overall rise in piracy incidents in Asia, the regional monitoring center ReCAAP issued an incident alert for the Singapore Strait. While the recent events were all minor thefts, they involved boardings of vessels underway causing ReCAAP to express concern over the increase in activity in the the area.

The alert advises of three boardings of ships underway in the eastbound lane in the Singapore Strait. The three events took place in the course of two hours, but in each incident, the ship’s crew did not encounter the boarders and no one was injured. The crews reported that nothing was found missing. 

The first of the boardings took place around 11 p.m. local time on October 25 when the master of the bulk carrier Seajourney reported they had sighted an unauthorized person near the entrance to the engine room. A search of the ship did not locate the person. Then early on the morning of October 26, an unknown small boat was seen alongside the bulk carrier A Racer. Five boarders were spotted aboard the ship, but left without stealing anything. Then a small boat was spotted alongside the bulk carrier El Matador. Three people were seen in the engine room and because the captain could not confirm that they left the ship he diverted to the Batam anchorage. The Indonesian Navy searched the bunker, but did not find any unauthorized people aboard and nothing was reported stolen.

There was a similar series of boardings reported between October 11 and 14. On those days, two bulk carriers and one chemical tanker each reported seeing unidentified perpetrators aboard in the vicinity of the engine room. In the first two cases, a search found no one aboard and nothing missing. On October 14, however, three boarders were found in the engine room of the bulker Ian M. In that instance, the crew reported a buoy, and welding rods had been stolen.

According to ReCAAP, the six incidents in the course of two weeks all in the eastbound lanes of the Singapore Strait are concerning. These events brought to 28 the total number of incidents reported in 2020. Also, they reported that 24 of the events were all in the eastbound lane.

During all of 2019, ReCAAP reported a total of 31 incidents in the Singapore Strait with 17 of them in the eastbound and 14 in the westbound lanes. 

ReCAAP warns mariners that the perpetrators were not caught in any of these recent events raising the possibility of further activity in the same area. 

In its nine month report, ReCAAP said it had received a total of 75 reports so far in 2020, mostly of armed robbery. They represent a nearly 40 percent increase in activity versus 2019 and the highest level of incidents since 2015.