Asian Piracy Threat

Two recent hijackings have put south-east Asia back on the map of piracy hot spots but the dynamics of the attacks have differed from what has become the more common “snatch and grab” form of robbery in the region

Two Asian hijackings highlight regional piracy threat

by Lloyd’s List

Two recent hijackings have put south-east Asia back on the map of piracy hot spots, but most of the crime committed here is not reported as piracy and it is debateable whether these attacks share similarities with the model in the Gulf of Guinea.

The hijack of Arowana in October off Malaysia and that of Scorpio in the Singapore Strait in September differed from what has become the more common “snatch and grab” form of robbery in south-east Asia.

In both cases, the vessels were hijacked at anchor and moved to a different location where their fuel cargo was stolen – a model more familiar in West Africa in recent times.

Dryad Maritime Intelligence director of intelligence Ian Millen noted that in recent years south-east Asia has become less newsworthy, overshadowed by Horn of Africa and Gulf of Guinea piracy.

“South-east Asia criminality has been very much focused on cash, ships’ stores and valuables, but there has been a constant stream of intelligence-led hijacks to order, with vessels being taken, renamed and sold,” he said.

Although violent robbery at anchor or underway, normally with knives and pistols, is a fairly regular occurrence in the region, Mr Millen said the hijack of Arowana and that of Scorpio represented a very different trend.

“This is a re-emergence of a type of crime that was more common in the region before the Malsindo 2004 agreement, as a result of which the navies of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore provided trilateral coordinated patrols of the Singapore and Malacca Straits,” he said.

“Before this agreement, the hijack and theft of vessels and cargo for onward sale to a prearranged buyer was prevalent.
The most recent hijack of Arowana for a cargo of 650,000 litres of fuel oil and that of Scorpio before it, harks back to this previous type of criminality.”

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