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More incidents of robberies against ships in Singapore Strait last year

More incidents of robberies against ships in Singapore Strait last year
Lim Min Zhang Jan 15, 2020

SINGAPORE - The number of robbery incidents against ships in the Singapore Strait increased to 31 last year, compared with seven in 2018.

This is compared with eight actual and attempted cases reported in 2017. There were two in 2016, and 99 in 2015.

Most of the incidents last year took place in the hours of darkness, and resulted in no or minor injuries to ship crew. Items stolen include scrap metal, engine spares and tools.

In most of the cases, the weapons carried by the perpetrators were not specified in reports. In other cases, robbers were unarmed, carrying knives or machetes or, in one case, a gun and jungle knife.

The number of armed robbery and piracy cases in Asia last year also increased. There were 82 reported incidents last year, compared with 76 in 2018, which was the lowest since 2007.

These statistics were released by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre on Wednesday (Jan 15).

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), "piracy" is defined as any act of violence or detention committed for private ends in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state, while "armed robberies" take place in a state's internal waters.

Mr Masafumi Kuroki, executive director of the Singapore-based centre, said that the number of incidents last year was a significant increase, although it was not as high as the 99 incidents in 2015.

"It is important for littoral states in the area to enhance their surveillance and control in the Singapore Strait, as well as for the shipping industry to step up their vigilance," he said, adding that one possible measure was having more crew to keep watch at night for suspicious small boats that approach.

The littoral states which manage the Singapore Strait are Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Mr Kuroki said it was difficult to identify whose territorial waters the Singapore Strait incidents took place in, when asked about this.