A Singapore-registered tanker sailing in Malaysian waters has been boarded by pirates and robbed of its marine fuel, Malaysian coast guard officials have confirmed. Port authorities lost contact with the ship late on 8 August, several hours after it had set sail from the Indonesian city of Tanjung Pinang. The ship, which was en route to the Malaysian island of Langkawi, was carrying a crew of ten and 3,500 tonnes of marine fuel when it was attacked. Two of the crew members sustained injuries after the vessel was boarded and they have since been hospitalised.
According to information from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB), over the past six months pirate attacks in Southeast Asia are the highest that they have been in twelve years. By contrast, there have been no reported incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia, or in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea or in the Gulf of Aden. If this trend continues, 2015 could be the first year since 2006 that Somali pirates were prevented from claiming any prizes.
Worldwide, the IMB reported a total of 134 pirate attacks from January to June this year, an increase of 18 attacks over the same period last year but still below 2011’s record breaking 266. It is not, however, the relative increase in the frequency of attacks that is the most striking feature of the IMB data – it is the overall change in their geographic distribution. Indonesia, for instance, recorded 54 attacks over the reporting period, the highest number since 2010, while Vietnam and Bangladesh suffered 13 and 11 respectively. The Strait of Malacca, a notorious hotspot for piracy, has also seen an uptick in pirate activity.
Various factors have been attributed to the decline in Somali piracy – amongst them the increase in naval patrols and the “target hardening” efforts of shipowners”, who have gone to considerable lengths to make their vessels harder to board, including the use of armed guards. Nevertheless, shipowners’ have been warned against becoming complacent. While it is certainly unusual for there to have been no incidents of piracy reported over the first six months of the year, Michael Howlett, deputy director of the IMB said that the threat had not vanished. “We still advise masters to be aware. [The pirates] still have the capacity [to launch attacks]. It only takes one successful attack for this business model to be relaunched,” he said.