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Less piracy off Singapore Straits, but abduction threat looms in Sulu Sea

PIRACY and armed robbery against ships in Asia during the first half has fallen year on year, according to the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

"There was a decrease of four per cent in the number of incidents. A total of 47 incidents (comprising 36 actual and 11 attempted.) were reported," said the ReCAAP press release.

"The severity level also decreased no CAT 1 incident and the lowest number of CAT 2 incidents compared to the same period of 2009-2018. There was no actual incident of abduction of crew for ransom and no hijacking of ships for oil cargo theft," said the statement.

But ReCAAP expressed concern over the continuing occurrence of incidents in the Singapore Strait. "Two incidents of theft of cargo from barges towed by tug boats while underway in the Singapore Strait were reported in July, bringing the number of incidents in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore to seven in the first half."

Although there was no actual incident of abduction of crew in the Philippines Sulu-Celebes Seas and no theft of oil cargo , the threat of these incidents still remains.

Compared to the preceding month of June, there has been an increase in the number of incidents in July - only one incident was reported in June, said the ReCAAP press release.

Of the seven incidents reported in July 2018, two incidents occurred on board ships while underway and five incidents on board ships at anchor/berth, it said.

A total of seven incidents (comprising five actual incidents and two attempted) were reported compared to two incidents (comprising one actual incident and one attempted) reported during the same period in 2017.

One July incident involved the Sung Fatt 31's towing barge, loaded with scrap metal while westbound in the western sector of the Singapore Strait on July 3

Another incident involved the tug Bintang Ocean 3's towing barge, Winbuild 2313 again while underway eastbound lane in the eastern sector of the Singapore Strait on July 7.

In both incidents, the masters and crew did not notice the sampans alongside the barges. The perpetrators boarded the barges from the sampans and escaped with scrap metal from Sung Fatt 38 and coils of tow line from Winbuild 2313.

The ReCAAP says that tugs towing barges loaded with cargo are relatively more vulnerable as they are slower in speed, with lower freeboard and unmanned barges.

As of July 31, nine crewmen were still held in captivity. The Philippine authorities continue to conduct pursuit operations and intensify its military to rescue the abducted crew and neutralise guerrillas.

Philippine Coast Guard say the threat is not eradicated and there were reports that the geurrillas had been able to recruit and replenish their ranks, and continue to attempt to stage abductions.

"The possibility of resurrecting maritime piracy and kidnappings is plausible when the opportunity arises given the complex maritime environment of the Sulu-Celebes Seas," said the ReCAAP release.

Source: Schednet

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