Piracy: Indonesia Recommends Double Watch, Convoy
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet on Thursday to discuss joint maritime security patrols in the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas after a spate of kidnappings. Joint patrols could involve ships from the three navies patrolling together and crossing into each other's territorial waters.
Budhi Halim, Secretary-General of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association has recommended that crews should maintain a double watch (bow and stern) when travelling through high risk areas, reports Channel News Asia. “Secondly, they must move in a convoy, don't travel alone."
Many vessels are also employing armed security guards, said Hanafi Rustandi, Chairman of the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Usually the Abu Sayyaf, the hijackers use small boats which can fit only four to five people, and the armed guards will be able to deal with them, he said.
Until now, the extra cost of employing guards has deterred some ship managers from using them. The Indonesian Shipowners Association provides some assistance to the local industry, as it has a protection and indemnity fund to cover ransom money paid to kidnappers.
Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines released 10 Indonesian seafarers on Sunday, ending a month-long ordeal during which a kidnapped Canadian held by the same group was beheaded after a ransom deadline passed.
The growing frequency of maritime attacks has affected coal trade between the Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, the world's largest thermal coal exporter, and the Philippines, which, relies on Jakarta for 70 percent of its coal imports.
Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion, is one of the most brutal militant groups in Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines.
Outgoing President Benigno Aquino has promised to devote his remaining days in office to crushing the militants. Fourteen rebels have been killed in bombing of the stronghold of Jolo island since Tuesday, a military spokesman said.
Since 2006, the United States has provided nearly $200 million in military aid to strengthen naval forces of the three Southeast Asian countries to combat piracy and militancy.