Asian Nations Respond to Increased Piracy
Chief of Navy for Singapore, Rear-Admiral Lai Chung Han, told local news sources today that the littoral states, consisting of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are in discussions to increase patrols in the lower areas of the South China Sea, the areas most affected by the recent influx of maritime piracy.
The decision to increase maritime security in the area comes after The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) urged the littoral states to increase survellance for the area following heightened reports of piracy for 2015.
Since 2013 the number of total attacks against ships has increased significantly from 29 incidents to 38 over the same period. The increase is largely due to a heightened onboard attacks in the Straits of Malacca and attacks at ports and anchorages in Vietnam. ReCAAP is particularly concerned with the escalation of “very significant” incidents such as the recent fuel siphoning situations. A February 14 incident aboard the product tanker Lapin involved the siphoning of 2,000 tons of bunker oil as well as an explosive package, which was later determined to be fake.
From 2011 to 2014 only one “very significant” incident was reported, but for the same period in 2015 five of these major situations have occurred. As the report states, “A total of five incidents of cargo discharged were reported in 2014, of which four were incidents involving siphoning of fuel/oil, and one was theft of scrap metal from a barge.”
Also, over half of all reported attacks have taken place in a hotspot of activity in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Though as the organization notes, “incidents reported in the Singapore Strait were relatively less severe in nature compared to that reported in the Malacca Strait.”
Speaking again to local news outlets, the Chief of Navy emphasized that in addition to normal pirate attacks in the region, the littoral states also must be aware of the possiblity for terrorist activity in the area. This is a real concern for the area as Al Queda has recently threated major shipping lanes including the Strait of Malacca. Chung Han stated that a terrorist attack would also be difficult to distinguish at first from a pirate attack.
One main drawback to the patrols being proposed by the South Asian countries is that they would be in close proximity to disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea. In recent years, China has overwhelmingly laid claims to areas in the South China Sea, increasing tensions with other neighboring Asian countries.