The Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), came out with a quarterly report on armed robbery and piracy incidents in the region between January to March 2021. The report claimed a sharp decrease of 39% in attacks across Asia but warned against their persistence in the eastbound Singapore strait.
The report suggests that a total of 17 episodes of armed robberies none involving piracy occurred in the region during the first quarter of the year. This came as a sigh of relief against 28 such incidents being reported last year during the same time.
The decline can be accounted for with a sharp drop in armed robberies in Indian waters going from six in the first quarter of 2020 to one in the first quarter of 2021. Similarly, Bangladesh reported no incident against two last year during the same period. Whereas with a bit of shock Vietnam's tally rose from zero to two.
But the report also warned against the persistence of armed robberies occurring along the Singapore Strait especially the waters of Tanjung Pergam near Indonesia. During the quarter seven incidents were reported certainty less than nine last year in the same time frame but strait remains to be an area of concern. The strait reported a total of 34 incidents in 2020.
It did not take long for the organization's warning to come true as on the 17th of April in a matter of just four hours two ships transiting the strait were attacked. The first being a product tanker where no robbery could occur due to the caution of the crew whereas the second incident was a more serious one where four suspects boarded a bulk carrier and injured a crewmember with a wrench during the robbery. As of now none of the culprits have been caught. In January three attacks occurred consecutively in a similar pattern.
In light of the occurrence of armed robberies in the strait repeatedly ReCAAP has also recommended in its report that all vessels that transit the strait should take extreme anti-piracy precautions along with vigilance round the clock. ReCAAP also suggested member nations in the vicinity of the strait, increase the frequency of patrol and make a coordinated effort to locate and arrest the perpetrators.
An intriguing fact that needs to be acknowledged regarding the attacks in the Singapore strait according to extortion expert Brittany Damora piracy in the Singapore Strait is unaffiliated to any rebel group unlike those in Myanmar and the Philippines and therefore to tackle the armed robberies in the strait a strong consolidated effort and heightened anti-piracy measures should be sufficient.
In conclusion, the report bears good news regarding the decline of attacks across Asia especially India and Bangladesh whereas certain regions like the Singapore strait continue to face the brunt of armed robberies but with certain determined measures the crisis can be mitigated over time.