The start of this week has focused on the worrying ‘Pirate Blitz’ that occurred within a 30 hour window from Friday 21st August to Saturday 22nd August, off the coast of Singapore.

Six vessels were targeted by between five and six opportunistic thieves armed with knives who are all thought to be part of the same pirate organisation.

In the aftermath of this spree, ReCAAP (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia) has called for a "collective effort by all stakeholders", with specific emphasis on the more timely deployment of patrol vessels by the relevant littoral states and increased surveillance in the vicinity.

"From the incidents, enhanced vigilance, early detection of suspicious perpetrators and activation of the alarm immediately are key actions towards preventing boarding."

The state of piracy in Southeast Asia is clearly reaching a severe point where Master’s and crew cannot allow any room for complacency. Vigilant watches must be maintained 24 hours a day, however without relevant training and anti-piracy drills, crews cannot offer the most effective protection to the vessels.

Piracy in Southeast Asia is a major concern, but other regions across the globe must not be overlooked. Primarily the Indian Ocean region, where the threat of piracy is widely considered to be under control, is still an area of operation for pirate groups out of East Africa and India.

On the 18th and 19th of August, there were reports of two separate incidents. The first being from a Bulk Carrier, transiting the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, who was being pursued by a suspicious skiff carrying weapons. Fortunately the vessel had an armed security team on board, who displayed their weapons, causing the skiff to alter its course and cease its approach.

The following day, three armed skiffs were sighted by a Chinese warship which was leading a convoy of commercial vessels near the island of Socotra. The Warship issued a warning to all vessels in the vicinity and all vessels were on high alert.

Both sightings in close proximity support the fact that pirate organisations are still operating out of the Horn of Africa. In the above cases the skiffs could have been potentially sent to gather intelligence, gauging the level of security being upheld by commercial vessels and the military presence in the area.

“What is alarming about the latest reports of activity in the Indian Ocean is that both incidents have occurred in incredibly busy points of the Indian Ocean, where military vessels frequently escort convoys. This indicates that pirate groups are either becoming desperate or feel confident that they can successfully board and hijack a vessel despite the presence of naval warships in the region. What ever the case it is crucial that ship owners and managers do not become complacent with security measures and allow pirate action groups the freedom to expand their operations.” Steven Roberts, Managing Director

Where armed security on board vessels may have been viewed as a short term solution to the global piracy issue, it is becoming clear that the effectiveness of the security teams deployed in the Indian Ocean have resulted in thousands of safe voyages for commercial and pleasure vessels, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

As for the Southeast Asian region, although the use of armed teams is not practical, security advisory teams can and are encouraged to be deployed to advise and assist with all vessel security matters, and prepare crews thoroughly for the impending transit in the high risk area.

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