During January-October 2019, three incidents of unauthorized boarding of ships in locations of close proximity to each other were reported in the western sector of Singapore Strait, ReCAAP ISC said in a new incident alert. All three incidents occurred to ships of Gross Tonnage between 43,000 and 160,000 while underway in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS).
With the occurrence of three incidents in close proximity to each other within a period of 20 days (on 30 Sep, 18 Oct and 19 Oct), the ReCAAP ISC advises all ships to exercise enhanced vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State.
Of special concern was the latest incident on 19 October, which involved perpetrators who were armed with gun and knife. The perpetrators threatened the crew, tied his hands and escaped with the ship engine spares. The gun was not discharged.
-On 30 September 2019, at about 2314 hrs, the bulk carrier 'Transpacific' was underway in the Singapore Strait when five perpetrators armed with knives were sighted on the ship deck. The alarm was raised and the crew searched the accommodation area but the perpetrators already escaped. The master reported the incident to Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS). The crew was safe and nothing was stolen. The Singapore VTIS initiated the safety navigational broadcast. The Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ship when she arrived in Singapore. A search for the perpetrators was conducted. The Indonesian authorities were notified.
-On 18 October 2019, at about 2324 hrs, the VLCC 'Hirado' was underway in the Singapore Strait when five perpetrators were sighted at the engine room. The master raised the alarm and the perpetrators escaped. The master conducted a search of the ship. Nothing was stolen and there was no further sighting of the perpetrators on board the ship. The master reported the incident to Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) via VHF. There is no information on the weapons carried by the perpetrators. There was no confrontation between the perpetrators and the crew. The crew was safe and the ship continued her passage to the next port of call at Yingkou, China. The Singapore VTIS initiated the safety navigational broadcast. The Indonesian authority, Singapore Navy and Singapore Police Coast Guard were notified.
-On 19 October 2019, at about 0100 hrs, the bulk carrier 'Nord Steel' was underway in the Singapore Strait when the duty oiler sighted five perpetrators armed with gun and jungle knife on deck. The perpetrators threatened the duty oiler and tied his hands. They stole engine spares (including piston rings, oil rings, valve seats, valve spindles, crankpin bearing shell etc.) and escaped through the steering room. The duty oiler subsequently informed the master who raised the general alarm and reported the incident to Singapore VTIS.
The ReCAAP ISC recommends to the law enforcement agencies of the littoral States to step up surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly to incidents reported by ships.
Time of incident: All three incidents occurred during hours of darkness between 2314 hrs and 0100 hrs.
Type of ships: All three incidents involved bigger ships, namely bulk carriers and VLCC, while transiting the eastbound lane of the TSS in the Singapore Strait.
Number of perpetrators: All three incidents involved five perpetrators. Though there is no substantiate evidence, it is possible that the same group of five perpetrators boarded Hirado and then Nord Steel as the two incidents occurred within an interval of two hours and in close proximity to each other.
Type of weapons carried: Of the three incidents, the incident involved Nord Steel reported that the perpetrators were armed with gun and jungle knife. The last known incident in the same vicinity that involved perpetrators armed with gun was in Oct 2011. On 10 Oct 11, a Singapore-registered tug boat, Britoil 71 towing a chemical tanker was underway in the eastbound lane of the TSS in the Singapore Strait when perpetrators armed with a handgun and long knives boarded the tug boat.
Treatment of crew: Two of the three incidents reported no confrontation between perpetrators and crew. In the incident on 19 Oct 19, the perpetrators threatened the duty oiler and tied up his hands.
Items stolen: Two of the three incidents reported that nothing was stolen from the ships. One incident reported that engine spares were stolen.
In late August, ReCAAP ISC issued another alert informing that the number of incidents involving tug boats towing barges has seen a rise in the Singapore Strait, with a total of 14 incidents reported only in 2019 (until 15th August).
In its latest piracy figures for the third quarter of 2019, ReCAAP ISC revealed a total of 54 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia during January-September 2019, compared to 64 incidents during January-September 2018. This accounts for a 16% decrease.