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South East Asia maintains position as piracy hotspot


SOUTHEAST Asia continues to dominate maritime crime incidents globally, with 120 reports of piracy and maritime crime instances occurring in the region since 1st January 2015, an increase of 22 per cent compared to the first six months of 2014, according to Dryad, the United Kingdom’s maritime intelligence company.

Of these reported incidents, 12 were vessel hijackings – an increase of three compared to the same period last year.
Ten of these hijacks have been for the purpose of cargo theft with eight of these being successful; MT Sun Birdie and MT Orkim Harmony were both recovered with their cargo intact.
According to Dryad, the boarding and subsequent robbery from vessels transiting the Singapore Strait has continued apace with 48 vessels reporting incidents in the first six months of the year, a 118 per cent increase on 2014 figures.

The most significant drop in incidents has been in the anchorages to the east of the Singapore Strait. In the first six months of 2014, there were 18 vessels boarded in the area and for the same period this year there have been only five. The robbery from vessels at anchor around Southeast Asia continues, with Bangladesh and Vietnam seeing the most cases, Dryad’s figures show.

Dryad notes that the arrest of two sets of hijackers this year will likely result in a slowdown in the numbers of small product tankers being hijacked in the region, but it fully expects a return of attempted hijacks in July, as the criminal gangs involved have proved themselves to be both resilient and adaptable.

With little apparent evidence of coordinated security patrols of the Singapore Strait by the three surrounding nations, the criminal gangs who board passing vessels are operating almost with impunity, sometimes boarding three vessels a night. The vast majority of these boardings take place in the eastbound Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) between Pulau Karimun Kecil and Pulau Besar.

Until effective patrols are put in place Dryad believes that these crimes will almost certainly continue.
“Southeast Asia is in urgent need of a joined-up effort to tackle the criminal gangs who are hijacking small regional tankers and robbing other vessels in transit, with the Singapore Strait being in dire need of some effective, coordinated action,” says Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer at Dryad Maritime.

“The wars in Yemen and Libya and the security integrity of important arteries like Suez, bring their own complexities to maritime operations. From restrictions on maritime trade in Libya and Yemen, terrorism concerns in the Suez Canal zone and the pressures of becoming engaged in mass migration rescue operations, mariners, and those who have a duty of care to them have a plenty to think about. As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve seen vessels attacked by military and rebel forces off Libyan ports and others fired upon and detained in the Arabian Gulf.”The only confirmed reports of maritime crime in HRA in Q2 were three cases of robbery; two from vessels alongside at Kandla, India and one in Mombasa, Kenya.

In other regions,  kidnapping of crew for ransom remains the most significant threat to mariners in the Gulf of Guinea, with Dryad reporting that at least 20 mariners were taken from vessels off the shores of Rivers and Akwa Ibom States in Nigeria in April and May.

Overall, there have been 16 confirmed incidents reported during the second quarter of 2015 compared with 18 during the first quarter, and 15 during the same period last year.The extremely unstable political and military situation within Libya continues, affecting adjacent countries as well as normal shipping and trading operations, as is the continuing humanitarian crisis of Mediterranean migration emanating from Libya and other countries.
Further attacks on merchant ships close to the Libyan coast have occurred following on from the attack on MT Araevo on 4 January. MV Tuna 1 and MT Anwar Afriqya were both attacked in May, in waters off Derna and Sirte, respectively.  More recently, an unconfirmed report suggests that a probable fishing vessel was attacked off Benghazi in June, Dryad said.

Reports of robbery from sailing vessels and from anchored merchant vessels have reduced from 10 seen in Q1 to four in Q2. Two of these were robberies from sailing vessels at anchor and two from MVs at anchor. There is a threat to sailing vessels throughout the Caribbean.

Yachts anchored in exposed bays are targeted due to the perception the owners are wealthy and carrying large amounts of cash. These attacks commonly see the use of extreme violence with knives and guns often used. Despite the continued uncertainty in Venezuela there have been no instances of crime reported against MVs in the country’s ports. Ports in Brazil, Peru and Colombia have seen robbery from vessels at anchor and alongside in the recent past.

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