It is said that a total of 31 piracy incidents were recorded in the Singapore Strait by 30 December 2019 compared to eight in 2018, as reported by data from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCaap ISC).
Moreover, while there is an equal distribution of incidents in the westbound and eastbound lanes of the strait over the last 12 months; 12 of the 16 incidents recorded in the eastbound lane occurred in a relatively short period between 23 November and 30 December 2019.
Incidents in the eastbound lane primarily involved 8 bulk carriers and 5 tankers, with reports of crew being confronted, threatened and injured, unlike the incidents occurring in the westbound lane of the Singapore Strait last year, which primarily involved barges towed by tug boats, theft of scrap metal and no reports of crew injuries.
ReCAAP ISC has now issued a series of five alerts reporting on incidents involving attacks on eastbound ships in the Singapore Strait and voices concern with the recent increase of incidents in the Strait.
The organization warns that “since the perpetrators of these incidents are not arrested, there is a possibility of further incidents in the Singapore Strait.”
Masters of ships transiting the Singapore Strait are therefore advised to implement preventive measures recommended in the ’Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia’, exercise enhanced vigilance, maintain look-out for suspicious boats and report all incidents to the nearest coastal State immediately.
Prior to entering any piracy prone area, masters should review the ship security plan in light of latest information received, conduct a voyage specific risk assessment, brief and train the crew and prepare and test the ship’s emergency communication plans.
ReCAAP ISC advises the following list of actions to be considered by masters if a suspected attack is imminent or an actual attack is in progress:
- Sound the alarm which signals an attack.
- Activate the ship security alert system, which will alert the company security officer (CSO) and the flag state.
- Make an announcement in accordance with the ship’s emergency plan. The crew will then muster according to procedures.
- Place the ship’s whistle/foghorn/alarm in auto mode to demonstrate to any potential attacker that the crew is aware of the attack and is reacting to it.
- Put out a distress alert.
- Ensure that the AIS is switched ON.
- Increase speed as much as possible to widen the distance between the ship and the attackers. Try to steer a straight course to maintain maximum speed. Consider evasive actions if the circumstances warrant it.
- Alter course away from the approaching craft if possible. When sea conditions allow, consider altering course to increase an approaching craft’s exposure to wind/waves.
- Confirm all entry points/doors are secured and muster the crew safely and in accordance with ship procedures.
- If and when a master decides that it is safe to leave the bridge, take all way off, stop engines and display Not Under Command (NUC) lights.
- Switch on additional lighting during the hours of darkness.
- Report the attack as soon as possible to the nearest coastal State. In addition, contact the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) by phone and follow up with call to the CSO if the situation permits.