A recent warning has been issued due to a series of robberies that have taken place on large cargo ships in the Singapore Strait while they were sailing. The organization responsible for monitoring and reporting these incidents, ReCAAP, located in Singapore, has reported four such incidents in the past three days. This marks a significant increase in these types of incidents in the year 2023 compared to the previous year. In fact, by the beginning of August, ReCAAP is warning that the number of reports for this year has already matched the total number of reports for the entire year of 2022.
ReCAAP, along with private security firms, has consistently issued warnings about the growing number of robberies and unauthorized boardings of ships in the Singapore Strait over the last few years. While most of these incidents involve theft and the intruders are usually not armed, ReCAAP is emphasizing the higher level of danger in this region.
Within just three days, from August 7 to 9, there were four new incidents reported. All of these incidents occurred on cargo ships carrying dry bulk materials while they were underway. Three of these incidents happened in a specific area at the western end of the strait, near Indonesia. Additionally, all of them involved a type of large cargo ship called Capesize bulkers, which are the biggest ships of their kind. The ships involved in these incidents were the Liberian-registered Doric Warrior (93,000 deadweight tons), the Liberian-registered Osaka Star (85,000 deadweight tons), the Cyprus-registered Sophocles Graecia (82,000 deadweight tons), and the smaller Jal Kala (63,000 deadweight tons) registered in the Marshall Islands. Jal Kala was boarded at the eastern end of the strait.
Out of these incidents, only one case involved the intruders having knives. In three cases, they were found in the engine room, while in one case they were seen on the deck outside. In each of these incidents, engine spare parts were stolen, but none of the crewmembers were hurt. In most cases of this type in the Singapore Strait, when the intruders are discovered, they quickly flee and rarely confront the crew directly.
The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) is urging the countries with coastlines along the Singapore Strait to increase their patrols and surveillance in their waters. They also recommend responding promptly to incidents reported by ships and enhancing coordination between the countries. This advice comes in response to the noticeable increase in these incidents.
Since the beginning of 2023, there have been a total of 51 incidents reported in the Singapore Strait, along with four more reports in the nearby Malacca Strait. These 55 reports already match the total number of reports for the entire year of 2022 in the Singapore Strait, and they surpass the 38 reports from the same period in 2022.
ReCAAP is particularly concerned about a group of incidents that have taken place in the Philip Channel, near Pulau Cula, Indonesia. Three of the recent reports occurred in that area, which has contributed to the overall increase in activity in 2023.
Ships are being advised to stay vigilant and keep a careful watch while passing through this area, especially during the hours of darkness when the risk is higher.
This surge in piracy incidents in these areas is occurring while the global level of such activities has reached record lows in 2023. There has been a slight increase in incidents off the coast of West Africa and in the broader regions of the Gulf of Guinea. While some of the incidents off Africa have involved kidnappings, the overall number of seafarers being held has decreased due to improved security measures taken by ships and their owners, with support from international naval patrols, particularly in the waters off West Africa.