Photo: news.un.org/en/story

In the early hours of Sunday morning (9 Feb), two ships in the Singapore Strait were assaulted by pirates within the time of an hour.

At the media release, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre reported that the perpetrators left empty handed in one incident whereas some engine spares were stolen in another incident.

With the two new piracy incidents, the total number of incidents reported in the Singapore Strait now sits at six incidents since the beginning of 2020.

The issue of piracy has become a concerning one lately, with a total of 31 occurrences reported in the Singapore Strait in 2019. Last week, at the query by three MPs at the parliament, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen touched upon the issue.

The two incidents on Sunday morning occurred in the eastbound lane of the Strait.

The first incident involved six attackers wielding knives who got onboard the bulk carrier New Spirit and entered the engine room at about 2.20 am as the bulk carrier was passing by Nongsa Point, Indonesia. Upon seeing the carrier’s crew, the attackers fled..

The attack was then reported to the Singapore authorities after which the carrier head to Singapore. The carrier was boarded by the Police Coast Guard who conducted further investigation. It was reported that nothing was stolen and no attackers were found.

The second incident saw the tanker Swarna Jayanti which was also passing by Nongsa Point at around 2.52 am when an intruder was spotted by a crew member in the engine room.

At the alarm sounded by the ship master, the crew was gathered and they went on to search for the intruder.

Although none of the crew members were injured, several valves from the engine room were stolen.

The ReCAAP ISC stressed that it is “concerned with the continued occurrence of incidents in the Singapore Strait and the persistence of the perpetrators in their attempts to board ships”.  There is the possibility of future assaults in the Strait as perpetrators in the previous incidents have not been captured, ReCAAP ISC warned.

ReCAAP ISC further remarked that “all ships are strongly advised to exercise utmost vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State.”

Recommendations have been made by ReCAAP ISC to encourage law enforcement agencies of littoral states to boost cooperation and coordination, improve surveillance and patrol frequencies so that prompt responses to attacks can be carried out.

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