A total of 17 incidents of armed robbery against ships (comprising 16 actual incidents and one attempted incident) were reported in Asia during January-March 2021. This accounts for a 39% decrease in the total number of incidents compared to the same period in 2020. A total of 28 incidents (comprising 27 actual incidents and one attempted incident) were reported during January-March 2020. All the incidents reported during January-March 2021 were armed robbery against ships. No piracy incident was reported.
The decrease of incidents during January-March 2021 occurred in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Singapore Strait and Sulu-Celebes Seas. No incident was reported in Bangladesh during January-March 2021 compared to two incidents during January-March 2020. One incident was reported in India during January-March 2021 compared to six incidents during the same period in 2020. In the Philippines, two incidents were reported during January-March 2021 compared to four incidents during the same period in 2020. However, there was a slight increase of incidents in Vietnam. Two incidents were reported in Vietnam during January-March 2021 compared to no incident during the same period in 2020.
Of concern was the continued occurrence of incidents on board ships while underway in the Singapore Strait. Seven incidents were reported in the Singapore Strait during January-March 2021 compared to nine incidents during the same period in 2020.
There was no incident of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah during January-March 2021. The four abducted crew who had been held in captivity by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) since 17 Jan 20 were rescued by the Philippines authorities on 18 Mar 21 and 21 Mar 21. As a result, no crew is currently held in captivity by the ASG. However, the threat of the abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah still remains high. Ships transiting the area are advised to follow the ReCAAP ISC’s ‘Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah’, and maintain communications with the Operation Centres of the Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.
Despite a decrease of incidents in several locations, the ReCAAP ISC urges the law enforcement agencies to continue to enhance surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly to incidents reported by ships and to make more arrests. Ship masters and crew are advised not to let their guard down, but to exercise vigilance, maintain constant lookout for suspicious boats in the vicinity, report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State, and implement preventive measures recommended in the ‘Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia’.