Piracy incidents in Singapore Strait surged last year
Pirates attacked 31 ships in the strait last year, compared with just eight in 2018
After three years of relative peace, the Singapore Strait was plagued by a surge in piracy incidents last year.
Pirates attacked 31 ships in the strait last year, compared with just two in 2016, nine in 2017, and eight in 2018.
The figures were released by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia's Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) in its annual report yesterday.
Mr Masafumi Kuroki, executive director of ReCAAP ISC, told the media that of the 31 incidents last year, 15 were in the westbound lane of the strait, while 16 were in the eastbound lane.
All but one of the incidents in the westbound lane happened from February to August.
The incidents in the eastbound lane happened exclusively from September to December.
Mr Kuroki said Malaysian authorities caught three suspected pirates on a tug boat with pieces of scrap metal, believed to be stolen, in the westbound lane in August last year.
He believed this led to a deterrent effect on would-be pirates in that area.
Ms Lee Yin Mui, the assistant director of research at ReCAAP ISC, said many factors could explain the increase, but she believes complacency was a significant one.
She said attacks in the Singapore Strait are almost always opportunistic, whereby the pirates target scrap metals and spare engine parts to sell, and that the trend of such attacks is unique to the strait.
"So we see that whenever there is lower enforcement and complacency among crew, the number of incidents will increase," she said.
Ms Lee explained there were 99 incidents in the Singapore Strait in 2015, but this suddenly dropped to just two in 2016.
She said this was likely due to a spate of arrests of pirates by Indonesian authorities in 2015.
Both Mr Kuroki and Ms Lee urged stronger cooperation between the littoral states, and for more enforcement and crew vigilance.
Separately, the Republic of Singapore Navy is hosting the 14th Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP) Joint Coordinating Committee Meeting, which began yesterday and ends today.
The event, attended by representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, will discuss the recent increase in piracy incidents in the Singapore Strait.
The meeting is expected to conclude with the signing of revised standard operating procedures, which seek to strengthen information sharing and enhance mutual understanding and collaboration among MSP members.