Monday, October 20, 2014

After Product Tanker Heist a Report on the Cost of Piracy to Merchant Shipping in Asia

A Good Quarter Doesn't Mask a Bad Year as Attacks Overall Increase
Shipping News Feature

ASIA – The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) has released a report detailing a surprising but significant change in the trend of pirate incidents in Asian waters for the nine month period from January to September 2014. ReCAAP found that in the third quarter of 2014, there was a 33% drop in the number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against merchant shipping as compared to Q2. Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends, with a total of 129 attacks reported for the year so far (both attempted and successful) pirate attacks in the region are at their highest level since before ReCAAP’s formation.

The first six months of 2014 saw an increase in the number of incidents compared to the same period of last year, a surge from 61 reported during the first half of 2013, to 90 in 2014. However, after July 2014, there has been a reduction in the number of incidents within the three-month period from July to September. A total of 39 incidents were reported during Q3 2014 compared to 58 incidents during Q2 2014, marking a 33% decrease.

Compared to the same periods in 2010 to 2013, there has been an upward trend in the number of incidents reported during 2014. The bulk of the incidents reported during 2014, up to September, were petty thefts, and while the incidents classified as less significant and moderately significant, have remained fairly consistent compared to the same period in 2011-2013, of concern were the ‘very significant’ classed events involving the siphoning of ship fuel/oil. These notably declined in August and September 2014, a trend ReCAAP associates with the ongoing collaborative efforts by the maritime enforcement authorities and the shipping industry, but the organisation still urges the authorities and all stakeholders not to be complacent, ensuring all parties carry out their risk assessments, conduct internal checks and enforce vigilance at sea.

While there has been a decrease in incidents reported at some ports and anchorages in Indonesia; ships anchored off north-east of Pulau Bintan in the South China Sea have been boarded more frequently. Of less significance and petty theft in nature, opportunistic robbers also boarded ships while underway in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

ReCAAP, a regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery in Asia launched in 2007. It urges the littoral States to step up surveillance, maintain a continuous naval presence and conduct more regular jointly coordinated patrols in the strait whilst advising ship masters to exercise extra vigilance when traversing areas susceptible to pirate attacks and to report all incidents immediately to the authorities of the coastal States.

The twenty contracting parties to ReCAAP are Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Denmark, India, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.

Already October has seen the capture and release of an oil product tanker, which was held by pirates for six days when transiting the waters between Singapore and Vietnam. Having left Singapore laden with 5,200 tonnes of gas oil, the Sunrise 689 soon disappeared and lost contact with her owner. Nearly a week later, she re-emerged with approximately 2,000 tonnes less of her cargo and her communication systems and black box destroyed to avoid detection, but with all 18 members of her crew relatively unscathed though without any personal belongings as they had also been stolen by the pirates, a pattern only too familiar to the regions victims.

The hijacking of the Vietnamese tanker was typical of the more serious type of assault in Asian waters and saw her seized on October 2 and held for almost an entire week whilst her cargo was stolen. The ship was seized by men armed with guns and knives operating from a fast skiff and two fishing boats shortly after she left the Horizon Terminal in Singapore. The crew were badly treated, particularly at first when some tried to resist the assault with one man sustaining a broken toe and damaged knee and another an ankle injury. After they were subdued the crew received food only once a day until their release on October 9.

Photo: Investigators search the tanker upon her release from captivity.