Piracy or Not, Danger Exists

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Piracy or Not, Danger Exists; A SE Asia Problem

SOUTHEAST Asia piracy and robbery at sea are rising once again, but not according to some regional States.

Much has been written, commented and spleens vented on the topic of the increase in piracy and armed robbery at sea against ships in Asia recently. Whilst the increase is greater than initial reporting may indicate, the crop of incidents involving six back-to-back attacks on ships in 24 hours has catapulted the issue of piracy back into the mainstream maritime news.

In fact, what most commentators appear to have overlooked is that there were actually eight (8) attacks against ships in the Indonesian waters of the Singapore and Malacca Straits within a 48-hour period – Click HERE for map and report details.

It has been surmised that a gang of pirates, or robbers depending upon your bent and the application of a legal basis differentiating between piracy and robbery at sea, of maybe 4 to 5 persons targeting various types of shipping transiting the vicinity of the Philip Channel, the Eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. It may be suggested, however, that on taking into consideration the timings of the incidents and the distances covered to enable the boardings, there were possibly 1 or 2 gangs at work during the 48 hour period.

Following the high-profile hijacks of Orkim Victory and Orkim Harmony in June – resulting in 8 pirates being arrested by Vietnamese authorities – July was somewhat of an hiatus for pirate activity, however, the most recent incident, the hijack of the tanker Joaquim in the Malacca Straits this August, along with the spike of eight attacks, demonstrates that the pirates and robbers have no desire to give up their lucrative venture and are back with a vengeance. As increasing energy demand means both crude oil and oil product trade is expected to grow, and failing oil production combined with the demand means the stronger volumes for tankers may see an increase in attacks.

The dispersion of the attacks where weapons were sighted during the (6) incidents would indicate that it is most likely the perpetrators carried weapons whilst boarding the other targets. These targets were not inconsiderable in their size with 225-meters the average length of the tankers, container ships and bulk carriers boarded. The weapons carried, in cases where sighted, were knives, which are clearly carried to intimidate, and if confronted, the easy option to deter any crew from reacting to the unwarranted threat to themselves and their livelihood. The incidence of attacks on seafarers, even at a lower level in terms of violence, in the Gulf of Guinea, remains worrisome, as highlighted in the Oceans Beyond Piracy annual report, The State of Maritime Piracy 2014.

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