SINGAPORE: There were 101 incidents of piracy and armed sea robberies in Asia last year, marking a 19 per cent increase from 2016’s 85 cases. Of the reported attacks, 89 were actual incidents, while 12 were attempted incidents.

Ports and anchorages in Bangladesh, the Philippines, the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore saw an increase in incidents.

There were nine cases in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore last year, up from two in 2016. Eight of the incidents happened in the Singapore Straits while one was in the Straits of Malacca. Still, this was a significant drop from the 104 cases reported in 2015.

These findings were released on Tuesday (Jan 16) at the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre’s (ReCAAP ISC) 9th Nautical Forum – an annual dialogue with maritime, diplomatic, and business communities.

Of the incidents reported last year, 84 per cent were armed robberies against ships, while 16 per cent were piracy incidents. Two-thirds of these incidents happened while ships were anchored or at berth.

Presenting the findings at a media briefing, ReCAAP’s executive director, Mr Masafumi Kuroki said that while overall cases of piracy and armed sea robberies have increased, the most severe incidents – such as the abduction of crew and theft of oil cargo – saw a decline of 50 per cent compared to 2016.

In the Sulu-Celebes Seas, well known for incidents involving pirates, crew abductions fell from 10 cases in 2016 to three last year. Incidents of piracy and armed robberies at ports and anchorages in India, Malaysia and Vietnam also went down.

While the number of cases has dipped, abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas continues to be a concern to authorities.

Another area of concern Mr Kuroki highlighted is the hijacking of ships for the theft of oil cargo. While only three cases were reported in the whole of Asia in 2017, Mr Kuroki said that with oil prices going up, law enforcement agencies in the region should enhance their services and patrols to deter such incidents from happening.

Incidents that occur within territorial waters are defined as armed robberies while piracy occurs on the high seas.

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