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A total of 75 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia during January-September 2020 compared to 54 incidents during January-September 2019.

Of the 75 incidents during the first nine months of 2020, 71 were incidents of armed robbery against ships while four were piracy incidents, according to data published by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

The increase of incidents occurred in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and the Singapore Strait. However, ReCAAP highlighted an improvement at the ports and anchorages in China and Malaysia during the period.

ReCAAP said: ‘Of concern was the continued increase of incidents onboard ships while underway in the Singapore Strait during January- September 2020 with 22 incidents, compared to 15 incidents during the same period in 2019.

ReCAAP also said the abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah ‘remains a serious concern’ as demonstrated by the abduction incident on a fishing trawler on 17 January off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia where five crew were abducted; and information of planned kidnapping by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sabah and Semporna, Malaysia targeting ships passing by Tawi-Tawi and Sabah waters.

On 29 September, the body of one of the five abducted crew from the fishing trawler was found during a military operation in Patikul, Sulu. Four crew are still held in captivity.

‘Shipping companies are advised to follow the ReCAAP ISC’s Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah and maintain communication with the Operation Centres of the Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia,’ said ReCAAP.

Also of concern was the increase of the number of incidents at Manila and Batangas anchorages and ports in the Philippines during January-September 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) has published a special report consisting of an Advisory on the measures to be taken by ships anchored and berthed in the area, and the contact details of the local authorities.

ReCAAP said: ‘In view of the increase of incidents in the locations as indicated in this report, ReCAAP ISC reiterates the need for law enforcement agencies to enhance surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly to incidents reported by ships in order to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.

‘Ship masters and crew are strongly advised to exercise vigilance, maintain constant lookout for suspicious boats in the vicinity, report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State, and implement preventive measures recommended in the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.’

To access ReCAAP’s Q3 2020 report, click here.

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