Piracy Warning for Asia with Crews Being Tied Up and Stores Stolen

piracy Asia
Warnings cite pirates approaching small boats with several incidents of crewmembers being tied up and stores stolen (file photo)

Published Jun 19, 2024 5:26 PM by The Maritime Executive


Monitoring agencies are issuing warnings over increased piracy activity specifically where boarders have come onto the vessels and tied up crewmembers while stealing stores. The regional information sharing operation ReCAAP is again highlighting the areas around the Singapore and Malacca straits while also issuing a special report after a dramatic increase in incidents near Chattogram Anchorage and Kutubdia island in Bangladesh.

Two incidents occurred in recent days near Singapore with ReCAAP highlighting that there has been a total of 18 reports since January 2024 in the areas around Singapore. There have been multiple warnings of low level incidents of boarding and theft in the Singapore Strait for the past few years, but in most cases, the perpetrators flee when discovered.

In the most recent incident on June 11, ReCAAP is warning that two crewmembers were tied up aboard the bulker Santa Regina (82,000 dwt). Registered in Panama and operated by Mitsubishi Ore, six perpetrators came aboard armed with knives while the vessel was at the western side of Singapore transiting from the Malacca Strait into the Singapore Strait. There were no injuries among the crew but engine spares were stolen.

A chemical tanker underway in the Singapore Strait off Batam also reported to the ICC Commercial Crime Services that it was approached by a small boat on June 15. The crew sighted a dimly lit boat near the port bow and altered course, but at a distance of 1.5 nm, the boat suddenly started flashing lights, increased speed towards the tanker, and made an approach in an attempt to come alongside. The tanker took evasive maneuvers and notified authorities. Seeing a patrol boat coming to assist the tanker, the boat aborted the approach and moved away.

ReCAAP is reporting similar incidents occurring since the start of the year near Bangladesh, including the boarding of the Maersk Chattogram (37,157 dwt) where ship stores were stolen in April. Two of the incidents, on May 3 aboard the chemical tanker Largo Eden (49,999 dwt) and the tanker Gas Courage (54,999 dwt) involved interaction between the boarders and the crew. The watchman aboard the Gas Courage was tied up and ship stores stolen. Nine individuals however were apprehended by the Bangladesh authorities who responded immediately. Similarly, the crew aboard the Largo Eden found the store watchmen tied up. They reported that six perpetrators boarded the ship broke into the paint store locker and stole items. They, too, were apprehended, and the material was recovered for the ship.

The warning advises that there have been nine incidents between January and May this year near Bangladesh versus just one in the entire year of 2023. 

While the danger continues in those areas, ReCAAP reports due to the successful efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard the threat level for crew abductions in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and near Eastern Sabah is being reduced. The threat level was shifted to Moderate Low after continuous military operations led to the dismantling of the support base and neutralizing the piracy groups in the Sulu archipelago.