Allmode Advisory 055: SouthEast Asia

Allmode Advisory 055: SouthEast Asia

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Advisory Type: South East Asia Report
Date: 22/07/15
Information Source: Allmode 

With the recent publication of the IMB’s Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships report for Q1-Q2 2015, it has been further confirmed that Southeast Asia is now the global hotspot for piracy and armed robbery against ships.

This, coupled with Allmode’s own research paints a picture of a region of increasing violence and lawlessness, with an 18% increase in piracy and robbery attacks since 2014.

Significantly, these worrying statistics may say just as much about the maritime industry itself than it does about the region. The relatively low proportion of suspicious approaches (or foiled attacks) compared to actual boardings and hijackings tell a story of a lack of awareness, training, vigilance and security management in the region.

The efficacy of mandatory requirements such as STCW Proficiency in Security Awareness and Proficiency in Designated Security Duties, in particular, may be brought into question by this trend. Are the “minimum requirements” sufficient in this region? Are shipping companies fulfilling their duty of care to their seafarers? (Futher details of supplementary training and mitigation measures may be found at the end of this advisory).

Notwithstanding the need for unified and co-ordinated international, state-based efforts to mitigate the risks of piracy and armed robbery, the commercial maritime industry itself must ensure that proactive, professional and compliant security solutions are considered for operations within this area. 

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As can be seen from the above chart, the incidence of maritime security threats in the region is exceedingly high. It is demonstrably the piracy hotspot of the world, and compares unfavourably with both the JWC HRA and West Africa in terms of total incidents. Occurrences are clustered around SINGAPORE, throughout the MALACCA STRAITS, and in and around the port environs of Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong in VIETNAM. 

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Within the Malacca Straits, petty and armed robbery incidents are concentrated around the anchorages of Dumai and Belawan. However, more serious incidents such as hijack for cargo theft occurs in the shipping lane itself. 

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Singapore and the outer Port Limits is a hotbed of petty and armed robbery, primarily directed against vessels at anchor, but also towards vessels underway transiting the area. Of those attacks directed against vessels underway, the majority have occurred in the Eastbound (southernmost) lane of the TSS - suggesting that many of the criminal groups are based to the south in the Palau archipelago. 

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 As can be seen, the number of incidents in the region has been steadily increasing since 2013, with the first half of 2015 representing an 18% increase on the same period in 2014.

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Although most incidents in the region are categorised as “petty theft”, this is still a highly damaging and potentially serious occurence.

Notwithsatanding this, there is still a high frquency of more serious incidents in this area than in the rest of the world. 

Of the 13 vessels hijacked globally in the first half of 2015, 11 have been coastal tankers in SE Asian waters.

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As can be seen, the majority of victims of hijack for cargo theft (siphoning of fuel/oil/product) have been medium sized tankers. However, supply vessels have also been targeted, due to their vulnerability and the potential presence of valuable cargo and/or bunker fuel. 

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Nearly three quarters of incidents in this region since 2015 have been boarding events, leading to petty or armed robbery.

However, more concerning is the relatively large number of successful hijacking events (17%) - representing a violent and total seizure of control of the vessel leading to cargo theft by means of a coerced ship to ship transfer

The relatively low number of “suspicious approaches” (11%) also alludes to the poor rate of detection of incidents before the assailants are able to board the vessel - indicating a lack of effective watch-keeping and vigilance. 

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Just over half of all incidents have occurred when the vessel has been at anchor, or stationary in (or just outside) an anchorage - this type of incident usually results in petty/armed robbery of ship’s stores and may be conducted in an opportunistic manner.

Incidents occurring while the vessel is underway are more likely to be of a more serious nature - leading to hijack for cargo theft - due to the more difficult nature of the operation requiring prior planning and more equipment. 

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A large minority of maritime security incidents in the region have involved the use of weapons. These range from long knives to firearms (in the case of the more serious hijack or hijack attempts). 

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The vast majority of incidents have occurred in or near Indonesian TTW, with Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore being roughly equal.

However, the large proportion of incidents reported as “Indonesia” fall geographically into the MALACCA or SINGAPORE STRAITS. (See Chart 1, 2, & 3) 

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Incidents in South East Asia have risen, year-on-year since 2013 - and are continuing to rise month-on-month since the beginning of 2015. 

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As a useful comparison, the comparative sparseness of events in the JWC HRA during the same period highlights the risk and threat posed in South East Asia.

5.1.1 Large Scale Irregular Migration by Sea

(As at 11 May 2015) nearly 600 people believed to be Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have been rescued from boats drifting in Indonesian waters.

At least two overcrowded boats - with many women and children on board - were towed by local fishermen to the shores of Aceh province.

Hundreds of thousands have fled persecution in recent years, often through Thailand but also by sea.

With Thailand’s recent crackdown on land-based cross border migration, migrants have been increasingly forced to the sea to attempt a crossing to Malaysia or Indonesia.

Last week, the UN's refugee agency said in a statement that an estimated 25,000 Rohingyas and Bangladeshis boarded people smugglers' boats in the first three months of 2015, twice as many in the same months of 2014.

(As at 14th May 2015) In excess of seven boats (each with around 400 people on-board) remain in the area in a state of humanitarian distress – as they have been refused port entry by any SE Asian Port-State

In Southeast Asia, more than 88,000 people have made the dangerous voyage by sea since 2014, including 25,000 who arrived in the first quarter of this year alone. Nearly 1,000 are believed to have perished at sea due to the precarious conditions of the voyage, and an equal number because of mistreatment and privation at the hands of traffickers and abusive smugglers. 

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