ReCAAP: Piracy Hits Decadal Lows in Asia

Attempted, actual and total attacks reported in Asia, Q1-3, 2009-2018 (ReCAAP)

Published Oct 12, 2018 3:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

Piracy in Asia has fallen to decadal lows, according to the latest numbers from regional reporting center ReCAAP. The number of actual reported incidents between January and September 2018 were the lowest recorded since the same period in 2009 (excluding attempted incidents). 

The relatively low-level nature of most attacks is also encouraging: the vast majority reported during the nine-month period were incidents of armed robbery, not full-blown kidnappings or hijackings. 

However, the risk of abduction is still very real in the most dangerous maritime corridor in the region - the waters off Sabah, Malaysia, which are home to the remnants of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization. Two years ago, when Abu Sayyaf kidnappings were at their peak, ReCAAP issued an advisory to shipping recommending that masters avoid the area altogether if possible. That advisory remains in place, and ReCAAP warned of a continued "imminent threat of abduction" in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and the waters off Eastern Sabah. As an example of the threat, ReCAAP cited the kidnapping of two fishermen from the boat Sri Dewi 1 on September 11. 

Lower-level incidents on board ships at ports and anchorages in Chittagong and off Samarinda, East Kalimantan are a concern this year, as well as on board ships underway in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). Incidents in the Philippines are down, and hijackings of product tankers for the purpose of fuel theft has ceased - a remarkable turnaround representing several years of law enforcement efforts. 

While Asian piracy and maritime crime have declined, boardings and kidnappings remain a very serious concern in other regions, notably the Gulf of Guinea. Pirates abducted 35 crewmembers in the waters off Nigeria, Benin and Ghana in the first half of the year alone, according to EOS Risk Group.