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Sea piracy coming down in Asia if February figures are any indication

A total of five incidents of armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia in February 2018. No piracy incident was reported. Of the five incidents, three were actual incidents and two were attempted incidents. 

Of the two attempted incidents, one was an attempted incident involving the abduction of crew from a container ship at approximately 4.4 nm southwest of Sibago Island, province of Basilan, Philippines. There is no actual incident of abduction of crew and no incident of hijacking of ship for theft of oil cargo reported in February 2018. 

Of the five incidents reported in February 2018, four incidents occurred on board ships while at anchor/berth (in Bangladesh, India and Vietnam), and one incident on board ship while underway (off Basilan, Philippines). 

There was no report of actual incident involving the abduction of crew from ships while underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea in February 2018. However, of concern was an attempted incident of abduction of crew reported on 16 Feb 18 involving container ship, Kudos 1. The last actual incident reported to the ReCAAP ISC occurred on board Super Shuttle Tug 1 on 23 Mar 17; and the last attempted incident occurred on board Doņa Annabel on 18 Apr 17. 

On 16 Feb 18, container ship, Kudos 1 was underway at approximately 4.4 nm southeast of Sibago Island, province of Basilan, Philippines, when three motorized bancas with three perpetrators on board each banca maneourvred to the portside amidship of Kudos 1. Armed with firearms, the perpetrators attempted to board the ship using ropes and hooks.

 The master and crew splashed hot water onto the perpetrators who opened fire at the ship for about two minutes and re-positioned themselves at about 400 to 500 meters away from the ship. The master also activated two flares. The perpetrators escaped quickly in the motorized bancas and sped heading towards Basilan. Three crew suffered minor injuries on their hands due to the glass debris from the ship's porthole mirror which was broken because of the gun shot. 

The authorities was alerted to the distress signal and immediately responded by deploying assets to the location of the incident. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) boarded the ship and provided medical treatment to the injured crew.

The PCG and Philippine Navy (PN) escorted the ship safely towards the port of Zamboanga City. 

The vigilance of the crew, quick responses in retaliation towards the perpetrators and timely sending out of distress signals to the authorities has resulted in immediate response by the authorities which successfully forced the perpetrators to abort boarding and escape. 

On 9 Feb 18, the ReCAAP Focal Point (Philippines) reported to the ReCAAP ISC the release of two Indonesian fishermen who were held in captivity by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) for more than a year.

The two fishermen, masters of fishing vessels SSK 00520 and SN 1154, were abducted in the waters between Pegasus Reef and Kual Kinatabangan near Taganak Island in Tawi-Tawi on 5 Nov 16. They were released and handed over to the Indonesian authorities on 20 Jan 18. 

As of 28 Feb 18, nine abducted crew is still being held in captivity⁶. The Philippine authorities continue to conduct pursuit operations and intensify its military operations to rescue the abducted crew and neutralise the militant group. The ReCAAP ISC reiterates its advisory issued via the ReCAAP ISC Incident

Alert dated 21 Nov 16 to all ships to re-route from the area, where possible. Otherwise, ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance while transiting the Sulu-Celebes Sea and eastern Sabah region, and report immediately to the following Centres: 

The situation of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia has improved in February 2018 compared to January 2018. A total of five incidents were reported in February 2018 compared to eight incidents reported in January 2018. However, of concern was the occurrence of an attempted incident of abduction of crew for ransom in the Sulu-Celebes Sea on 16 Feb 18. 

The ReCAAP ISC advises ships transiting the areas of concern to exercise enhanced vigilance, maintain look-out for suspicious approach by boats, report all incidents to the nearest coast States and flag State immediately, keep abreast of the latest situation and implement preventive measures recommended in the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

 

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