Southeast Asian Piracy at All-Time High


Published Aug 11, 2015 6:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

Piracy and hijacking are hitting all-time highs in Southeast Asia as oil demand and a thriving black market continue to drive maritime attacks in the region. 

According to PVI, a maritime security company, Southeast Asian pirates are targeting small tankers and siphoning fuel from their victims. Smaller tankers usually do not have adequate security in place to combat pirates. The total value and amount of siphoned oil cargo is unknown, but at least 20,270 metric tons of fuel has been lost this year at an estimated cost $10 million.

In July, Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) said that incidents of piracy and armed robbery had risen 18 percent 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.

Of the 106 vessels attacked, 11 were targeted in fuel and oil attacks. In February, the product tanker Lapin had 2,000 tons of fuel siphoned from it, which is the biggest recorded volume stolen this year.

The Singapore-flagged Joaquim was the latest victim of small tanker hijackings on August 8. The vessel was found the next day without the 3,500 tons of fuel it was transporting to Pulau Langwai, Malaysia. The missing cargo is valued at $700,000. 

The Orkim Harmony hijacking in June is possibly 2015’s most serious. The attack was orchestrated by 13 pirates who boarded the vessel without alerting the crew, took command of the bridge and disabled the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS). The pirates also repainted the hull and altered the vessel’s name to avoid detection. The Orkin Harmony was found eight days later and eight of the pirates were arrested. 

According to the PGI Risk Portal, a risk management solutions company, 11 percent of the world’s maritime hijacking took place in Malaysian and Indonesian waters. Though the majority of these robberies were small scale, it illustrates the growing trend in Asia. 

Since April 2014, hijackings in the Malaccan and Singapore Straits have had common threads. The majority of these hijackings have been concentrated in highly congested areas that offer ideal opportunities for pirates to board tankers. There have been 13 reported hijackings in such areas in 2015.