According to the report, there was an increase of piracy incidents the year that passed, on the contrary to 2019.

To remind, 2019's annual report noted that a total of 82 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia were reported from January to December 2019, comprising 71 actual incidents and 11 attempted incidents.

Τhe key figures for 2020 are:

  • There was a total of 97 incidents of piracy and armed robbery reported in Asia in 2020, comprising 95 actual incidents and 2 attempted incidents.
  • This represents an increase of 17% in the total number of incidents and a 32% increase in actual incidents, compared to 2019.
  • The increase of incidents occurred in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and Singapore Strait.
  • Of the 97 incidents, 93 were armed robbery against ships, while 4 were piracy.
  • Despite the increase of incidents, the severity level of incidents (violence to crew, stolen items) remained moderate. There was one CAT1 (the most severe) incident, while 74% of incidents were CAT4 (perpetrators not armed and crew not harmed).

During the press conference for the release of the annual report, Mr. Masafumi Kuroki, Executive Director ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre commented that

One factor for the increased piracy in 2020 is COVID-19, which affected the number of incidents, but it's not the only one.

Areas of improvement

  • There was some improvement at anchorages in China (no incident in 2020 compared to three in 2019) and Malaysia (three incidents in 2020 compared to eight in 2019)
  • Some perpetrators were arrested in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Singapore Strait.

Specifically, the report stresses that the areas of concern are:

Situation at the Singapore Strait

  • A total of 34 incidents (compared to 31 in 2019) occurred in the Singapore Strait, of which 30 occurred in eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS).
  • The majority of the incidents involved 1-3 men. Of the 34 incidents, 21 incidents involved 1-3 men (62%), nine incidents involved 4-6 men (26%), two incidents involved 7-9 men (6%) and two incidents (6%) had no information on the number of perpetrators involved.
  • There was a decrease of the number of incidents reported in the westbound lane of TSS as well as incidents involving tug boats and barges in 2020 compared to 20195. Some of the possible reasons attributed to the decrease of the number of incidents could be:
    (1) increase of enforcement efforts carried out by the law enforcement agencies in the westbound lane of TSS, particularly in the western sector,
    (2) the price of scrap metal in 2020 dropped compared to 2019 and it is no longer lucrative to steal scrap metal for resale
    (3) under-reporting by ship  master due to various reasons.
  • Increase of the number of incidents reported in the eastbound lane of TSS in 2020 compared to 2019. Most of these incidents involved bigger ships (bulk carriers and tankers).

Mr. Masafumi Kuroki called the industry to be alert on such incidents when sailing through the Singapore Strait, commenting that

The 32% year-on-year increase in the actual incidents in 2020 is a stark reminder that more needs be done to enhance the safety of maritime transport and safeguard the well-being of crew.

Situation at the Sulu-Celebes Seas

  • In 2020, there was one incident of abduction of crew from ships in 2020. However, the threat of abduction of crew still remains in the area. Since March 2016, a total of 86 crew were abducted in the area. As of today, 4 of them still remain in captivity.

Concerning the risk of abduction in this area, ReCAAP ISC's Q1 report for 2020 focused on the alarming issue of crew abduction, which remains a concern, in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah is high as demonstrated by the occurrence of an incident on 17 January 20 off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia. Five of the crew abducted from the fishing trawler are still held in captivity.

In addition, ReCAAP issued a warning for vessels sailing in the area, urging

Otherwise, ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance while transiting the area, and report immediately to the Operation Centres of Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.

Last but not least, concerning the situation at Sulu Celebes Seas, ReCAAP has published the Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah, explaining the risks, the current situation and what vessels could do to stay protected.

Mr. Masafumi Kuroki concluded that

Beyond vigilance, timely reporting by ships, enhanced patrol by enforcement agencies, as well as cooperation between littoral States, we believe that arrest and bringing perpetrators to justice is an essential deterrence to stop the increase of incidents.  We urge the littoral States to take seriously petty theft and sea robbery because leaving criminals to continue their crime with impunity will only embolden them to escalate their acts.

Concluding, to learn more about ReCAAP's annual report for 2020, click herebelow

Annual Report 2020