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ReCAAP: Ten Robberies in Singapore Strait in First Seven Weeks of 2022

armed robbery and assults on ships in the Singapore Strait
ReCAAP renews warning of boarding and armed robberies in the Singapore Strait (file photo)

Published Feb 21, 2022 3:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

Sea robberies and the boarding of vessels underway in the Singapore strait are continuing with the reporting agency for the region issuing alerts to seafarers and warning for the need to increase vigilance and maintain lookouts while transiting the Singapore Strait. ReCAAP ISC issued repeated warnings of consistent low-level crimes against ships in 2021, and today issued a new alert reporting a further increase of activity in 2022.

According to the latest incident alert, there have been nine successful boarding of vessels and a tenth attempt in the seven weeks since the beginning of 2022 all in the region around the Singapore Strait. Seven of the incidents occurred in the eastbound lane in the strait and four of them were in a tightly clustered area off Nongsa Point, Batam Island in Indonesia. ReCCAP reports that these four incidents all happened in a 10-day span between February 8 and 18 with three of them coming on consecutive days between February 16 and 18.

“The ReCCAP ISC is concerned with the persistent occurrence of incidents in the Singapore Strait, particularly the increase of incidents off Nongsa,” writes the monitoring organization in its February 21 report. “Since the perpetrators are not arrested, there is a possibility of continued occurrence of incidents in the Singapore Strait.”

Despite the persistence of the activity, ReCAAP notes it is all at the low severity level as no crew members were threatened or harmed. Typically, the reports are of crew spotting anywhere between two and five individuals aboard while their vessels are underway. They are targeting the engine room or store lockers and in most cases are frightened off when seen or the vessel raises its alarm. In two of the recent reports, both incidents of Bintan Island, the perpetrators were reportedly armed with knives or one had a long knife. 

They are targeting a wide range of vessels with several bulkers and tankers reporting having been boarded, but it also includes tugs and vessels supporting the offshore industries. In the case of a tug and a barge, a single perpetrator was reported to have stolen scrap metal from the barge while on bulker Theodor Oldendroff the crew saw two boarders who reportedly stole spare engine parts.

ReCAAP urges the states in the region to increase patrols and enforcement in their territorial waters. The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that overall piracy activity was at a 28 year low in 2021, but they also highlighted the increased armed robbery activity in the Singapore Straits. The area remains one of the most dangerous for seafarers. In its annual report, the IMB said in 2021 there was a 50 percent increase with 35 incidents against vessels navigating in the busy traffic lane, which was the highest number of reported incidents since 1992.