The ReCAAP ISC together with IFC and Working Group from the other maritime stakeholders collaborated to publish the “Regional Guide 2 to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia”.
- Understand the threat
- Conduct risk assessments
- Implement ship protection measures
his Regional Guide 2 provides the shipping community with updated MARSEC information in Asia that includes the type of piracy and armed robbery incidents, preventive measure recommendations, and relevant enforcement agencies contact details.
Current threats in Asia
The criminal activities involving ships underway in the Asian region can be broadly grouped into the following categories:
- Armed robbery and theft: In general, such activities are opportunistic in nature and occur when ships are in coastal waters. Ships are particularly
vulnerable when the bridge team is involved in navigating through congested waters and island groups. Incidents on board ships underway have occurred in the SOMS, particularly in the eastbound lane of the TSS in the SS, and in the South China Sea. The perpetrators’ primary aim is to steal and escape without being sighted by the crew.
- Hijacking of ships: At the time of publication, the last hijack reported in Asia happened in May 2016. This incident involving an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters. Hijackings of tankers normally occurs during hours of darkness; and have occurred primarily in the southern region of the South China Sea, and in the Malacca Strait from 2011 to 2017. These attacks have been restricted to small tankers especially those with low freeboard. Ships transporting specific grade of oil cargo have also been targeted, suggesting the perpetrators receive insider information on the cargo, schedule and route of the targeted ships. Ships could be hijacked for several hours or days for oil cargo to be transferred to a smaller “feeder” ship.
- Abduction of crew for ransom: Serious crimes of abduction of crew for ransom carried out by the ASG occurred on board ships transiting the waters off Eastern Sabah, Malaysia and in the Sulu-Celebes Seas in the Philippines. They usually target slow-moving and low freeboard ships such as tug boats and fishing boats/trawlers. They have also attempted to attack larger ships, but without success. The objective of the perpetrators was to demand ransom money from the ship owners or relatives of the abducted victims.
- Method and equipment used for boarding: In Asia, the perpetrators often use wooden small boats or fishing boats (to avoid being noticed) and a variety of tools including poles, hooks and lines to board ships. The use of a mothership is not common in Asia as most of the incidents occur within ports and anchorages or in coastal areas. Even for piracy incidents on high seas, mostly in the South China Sea, the use of a mothership is not common due to the relatively short distance from the shore.
A Risk Assessment should examine the effectiveness of the security measures already in place and identify additional prevention, mitigation and recovery measures available. The Risk Assessment should include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Crew safety (measures to prevent illegal boarding and external access to accommodation space, whilst ensuring that the crew will not be trapped inside and will be able to escape in the event of a fire, flooding, or other emergency)
- The specific threat (who are likely the pirates/armed robbers, what do they want to achieve, how do they attack, how do they board, which weapons do they use etc). The latest on the threat situation may be obtained from the ReCAAP ISC, IFC, regional reporting centres, shipping associations, IMB, commercial intelligence providers or local sources e.g. ships’ agents.
- The ship’s and company’s procedures (drills, watch rosters, chain of command, decision making processes, etc.).
- Background factors that may affect the unauthorised boarding (geography, visibility, sea-state, speed, wind, weather, swell, wave height, traffic density, and local patterns of activity, for example, other commercial ships, fishing concentration areas, etc.)
- The ship’s characteristics/vulnerabilities/inherent capabilities to deal with the threat (for example, ship’s freeboard, speed, general arrangement, etc.)
- Ship’s procedures (such as drills, watch rotation, routine maintenance, etc.)
- Planning and procedures (time/duration/season of transit – day/night)
- Any statutory requirements, in particular those of the flag State and or the coastal and port State. Other requirements dictated by the company, charterer, and insurance policies should also be taken into consideration.
Fundamental requirements of the guidance
As piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Asian region has evolved over the years, this new guidance provides seafarers the requirements the should be aware of, in order to be safe:
#1 Understand the threat
- Maritime threats are dynamic.
- Obtaining current threat information is critical for risk assessment and decision making.
#2 Conduct risk assessments
- Companies must conduct risk assessments.
- Identify ship protection measures.
#3 Implement ship protection measures
- Harden the ship.
- Brief and train the crew.
- Enhanced lookout.
- Follow flag State, insurance and regional guidance.
- Register and report to Regional Centres.
- Report incidents and suspicious activities to coastal States and Regional Centres.
- Send distress signal when attacked.
- Cooperate with coastal States.
- Cooperate with law enforcement to preserve evidence.
- Cooperate with welfare providers.