Incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia slashed by 48pc in Q1

THE Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) said in its first quarter report that there were a total of 14 incidents in Asia during January-March 2018 - 48 per cent fewer than in the same period last year.

The incidents compried of nine actual incidents and five attempted ones, compared to 27 incidents (comprising 21 actual incidents and six attempted incidents) during the same period in 2017.

Of the 14 incidents reported during January-March 2018, one was an incident of piracy and 13 were incidents of armed robbery against ships.

ReCAAP ISC attributed the improvement to a decrease in the number of incidents at ports and anchorages in Bangladesh and Philippines. There was no actual incident of abduction of crew for ransom in the Sulu-Celebes Sea; and no incident of hijacking of ships for theft of oil cargo during the period.

However, ReCAAP ISC said that of concern was an attempted incident reported in the Sulu-Celebes Sea involving container ship Kudos 1 on February 16 when three motorised bancas with three armed perpetrators on board each vessel maneouvred to the midship (port side) and attempted to board the ship using ropes and hooks.

The master and crew splashed hot water onto the perpetrators who opened fire at the ship for about two minutes and re-positioned themselves at about 400 to 500 metres away from the ship. The master activated two flares. The perpetrators escaped in the motorised bancas towards Basilan.

Two crew suffered minor injuries due to the glass debris from the porthole which was broken because of the gun firing. The authorities were alerted by the distress signal and immediately responded by deploying assets to the location of the incident. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) medical officers provided medical assistance to the injured crew.

The PCG and Philippine Navy (PN) escorted the ship safely towards the port of Zamboanga City.

Compared to the incidents in the first quarter of 2017, the one reported during January-March 2018 were less severe. The ReCAAP ISC commends the authorities for their quick action in response to the ship's timely reporting. In these incidents, the authorities were able to recover the stolen items and arrest the perpetrators.

Furthermore, the ReCAAP ISC encourages ship master and crew to exercise enhanced vigilance and make timely reporting of all incidents to the nearest coastal State and flag State; and enforcement agencies to provide quick responses to reports of incidents, and render assistance to victim ships.