In the cover of dark on 23 December, two pirate attacks occurred along the eastbound lane of the Singapore Straits as a bulk carrier, Trust Start, and a tanker called Bamzi, were boarded.
According to the alert issued by The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre on 23 December, the chief engineer on Bamzi saw three perpetrators in the engine room around 12.12 am, one of whom was armed with a knife. The alarm was immediately raised. The three people escaped. Two motormen were later found tied up. Nothing was stolen and no one was hurt.
Later around 1:54 am, the Trust Star crew spotted six people on the ship and promptly raised the alarm. Once again, the perpetrators escaped immediately, leaving two crew tied up in the engine room. As with the previous case, nothing was stolen and the crew was unharmed.
Given that the two attacks occurred within just two hours of each other, authorities suspect that they were carried out by the same group, said ReCAAP in the alert.
This happened just a few days after another three incidents on 20 December involving two bulk carriers and one tanker. In this earlier incident, the bulk carrier Jian Fa, bound for China, was boarded by an unknown number of people around 5:32 am. The Singapore Police Coast Guard notified the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) of the incident. Fortunately, nothing was stolen and the crew were uninjured.
Later at night around 11:25 am, the tanker, Jag Lalit, bound for Taiwan was boarded by six knife-wielding perpetrators. An engineer was punched in the face while the chief engineer sustained bruises and had a gold chain stolen.
A little later around 11:38 pm, crew members on the bulk carrier called Akij Globe sighted four armed men in the engine room, leading them to raise the alarm. The five pirates got away with a stolen engine and generator spares.
These five incidents bring the total number of incidents reported in the Singapore Straits to 29. Of these, 15 occurred while in the westbound lane and the other 14 in the eastbound lane.
In the statement, ReCAAP advised all ships to exercise enhanced vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State. They also recommended that law enforcement agencies of the littoral States step up surveillance efforts, increase patrols and enhance cooperation and coordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents.
TOC has reached out to the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs for comments.