Has piracy in Asia become a thing of the past? I think not, but after an increase in 2014 and 2015, particularly in the Straits of Malacca, things have been very quiet so far in 2016. Incidents of reported armed robberies against ships in Asia were lower in January 2016 compared to the same month in 2015 according to a report released by the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre.

In all there were a total of 9 reported incidents compared with 11 in January last year.

The 9 incidents reported were also less severe in nature with no Category 1 incidents in January 2016 compared with 2 incidents a year ago.

ReCAAP has four categories in descending order of severity of hijacking attempts. CAT 1, the most severe, involves a large number of armed perpetrators with the crew on board likely to suffer some form of physical violence. The ship would also likely be hijacked or the cargo on board would be stolen.

The two CAT 2 incidents for the month happened on a ship anchored off Tianjin, China and on a vessel at a pilot station anchorage in Vietnam. CAT 3 saw two attempts with one on a ship anchored at Kandla, India and the other anchored at Galang, Indonesia.

The remaining five incidents of armed robbery on the seas belonged to CAT 4 and happened on ships anchored off the coast of India either in the Gulf of Kutch, Kandla or Visakhapatnam.

So although India saw the highest number of reported actions in the month with six, they were all the least severe in nature according to the ReCAAP scale.

All 6 reported were opportunistic in nature, with no crew members harmed, and took place between 1930 hours to 0630 hours in the cover of darkness. Perpetrators escaped from the scene immediately after being discovered by crew members.

3 incidents saw the loss of ship stores and the other 3 reported no items taken.

“The situation of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia has improved since August 2015. Notably, for a consecutive three months since November 2015, there has been no actual attempted hijackings reported on board ships while underway in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and also no reported attempted hijacking of tankers for theft of oil cargo since September 2015,” said ReCAAP.

The previous piracy capital Somalia has certainly calmed down with no notable attacks during the past 12 months. However, piracy off Nigeria remains a serious threat with 2 vessels captured in the first two months of 2016.

Nevertheless, the trend is downward which is pleasing to note, but ships must still exercise a great deal of caution when navigating any of these waters.

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