Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- The number of piracy and armed robbery incidents reported in Asian waters has more than doubled in the first half of 2020 compared to last year. There were 51 incidents reported from January to June this year compared with 28 for the same period in 2019.

The half-yearly statistics were released by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre - https://www.recaap.org/

The center's executive director, Masafumi Kuroki, said that it is concerned with the nearly two-fold increase in the number of incidents in Asia, even though most were at a "low severity level." "Small crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts," he added.

Most of the incidents in the Singapore Strait this year occurred in the hours of darkness and involved bulk carriers, although tankers and tug-boats were also targeted. Items stolen include engine spares, scrap metal and steel construction material on barges. The number of incidents in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore has climbed steadily from one in the first half of 2016 to two in the following year and five in 2018.

While the reasons behind the increase in incidents of armed robbery are not clear, Kuroki said that there was a need for ships to enhance vigilance and for law enforcement to strengthen surveillance and patrol.

The number of incidents of piracy and armed robbery reported in Asia waters were the lowest in more than a decade in 2018, with 76 incidents. This increased slightly to 82 last year.

Reports of incidents are collated from designated government agencies of ReCAAP's 20 member states, which include Singapore, India, the Philippines, Japan, Australia and the United States.

At the same time an attack by pirates has been reported at a record distance off the coast of the West African Gulf of Guinea.

The ICC International Maritime Bureau has cited the Gulf of Guinea off West Africa as being the most dangerous for commercial shipping, reports of a new kidnapping are surfacing in the region. The new incident is the furthest offshore act of piracy yet recorded in the area according to Dryad Global.

Despite the use of speedboats, based on the location Dryad speculates that the perpetrators are being supported by a larger mother vessel, allowing them to sustain deep offshore operations beyond state counter-piracy efforts. 

Dryad reporting that the 11,321 DWT Liberian-flagged product tanker Curacao Trader was boarded 244 nautical miles (450 kilometers) south of Cotonou, Benin, and south-southwest of Nigeria. Apparently, 15 Russian and Ukrainian seafarers have been kidnapped.

This is the third incident being reported this month in the Gulf of Guinea with five crew members kidnapped at the beginning of July from the general cargo vessel Kota Budi. Nine were also kidnapped from the FPSO Sendje Berge in the oil fields off Nigeria.

The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre recorded 98 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the first half of 2020, saying that the Gulf of Guinea accounted for over 90 percent of the maritime kidnappings worldwide. 

Dryad reports that this latest incident brings to 93 the total number of crew kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea. The number of people kidnapped in maritime incidents is currently running at 47 % increase compared to 2019.

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