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A container ship at sea. Piracy incidents have increased dramatically in one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Photo: Bloomberg

Piracy incidents along Straits of Malacca and Singapore surge in 2019

  • ReCAAP ISC, a piracy information group, says there were 30 piracy events this year, up from eight last year
  • The latest incident was on Christmas Day, when an oil tanker was boarded by six unarmed people, but they escaped when the alarm system was activated
Piracy has surged this year along Southeast Asia’s Straits of Malacca and Singapore, one of the world’s busiest trade routes, according to a watch group that tracks maritime security.

Incidents along the shipping route rose from eight last year to 30 this year, according to data from ReCAAP ISC, a piracy information group with 20 member nations, mostly in Asia.

That’s the highest figure since 2015, when 104 incidents were recorded, according to the group’s data.

ReCAAP, also known as Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, warned of the possibility of further attacks as the perpetrators have not been arrested, and said it was “seriously concerned” over the increase in piracy incidents.

Smoke is blown from a cargo ship at sea. Photo: Reuters

The straits – along Peninsular Malaysia’s southwest coast and extending east past Singapore, Asia’s top ship-refuelling hub – sees oil and other commodities from the Middle East, Africa and the US criss-cross with bulk carriers and cargo ships laden with finished goods.

The straits’ location between the Indian and Pacific oceans has made it one of Asia’s major trading and fuel storage hubs.

More than 140,000 vessels larger than 75 gross tonnes arrived at Singapore’s ports last year, up 7 per cent from 10 years ago, according to data from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

One of the latest events was reported on December 25 aboard the oil tanker Stena Immortal. Six unarmed people boarded the Singapore-bound vessel but escaped empty-handed in a small boat after the alarm system was activated, according to ReCAAP.

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Last year, a total of 61 piracy incidents were reported across Southeast Asia, compared with 84 in 2017 and 70 in 2016, according to ReCAAP’s 2018 annual report.

It classifies incidents as “actual” when robbers board a ship, regardless of whether they take anything from the vessel or crew. The figures also include “attempted” incidents.