Congested traffic in the narrow passageway in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the world’s busiest shipping lane

Three incidents of armed robbery had occurred on board ships underway in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in the Singapore Strait between 25 and 26 October.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) stated on Monday (26 Oct) that the incidents occurred in the course of two hours, and in close proximity to each other.

The first incident took place at around 11pm on Sunday (25 Oct) when the master of the bulk carrier Seajourney – which was travelling near Nongsa Point in Batam, Indonesia to Ciwadan, Indonesia – reported that one unauthorised perpetrator was sighted in the vicinity of the engine room.

The master raised the alarm, and searched the ship, but with no sighting of the perpetrator.

Two hours later, at 12.46am, bulk carrier A Racer – which was travelling north of Pulau Nongsa in Indonesia en route to China – was alerted by Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) about an unknown craft alongside it.

The master reported that five unauthorised perpetrators were sighted on board the ship, but nothing was stolen.

Shortly after, at 1.30am, another bulk carrier, El Matador, was alerted by VTIS East about an unknown craft alongside it. El Matador was underway from Nongsa Point in Batam when it received the alert.

The master reported the sighting of three perpetrators in the engine room, raised the alarm, and four perpetrators were seen escaping from the ship.

As the master was doubtful on whether all the perpetrators had left the ship, he diverted the ship to Batam anchorage where the Indonesian Navy then boarded and searched the ship.

No injury was reported, and nothing was stolen from the bulk carriers in all three incidents.

According to ReCAAP, these three incidents bring the tally of incidents reported on board ships in the eastbound lane of the TSS for October to six, which is the highest number of incidents reported in one month compared to the previous months of 2020.

“In all six incidents, there was no confrontation between the perpetrators and the crew. One lifebuoy and some welding rods were stolen in one incident, and nothing was stolen in the other five incidents,” it added.

With the six incidents in October, a total of 28 incidents have been reported in the Singapore Strait since January this year.

Of these, 24 incidents occurred in the eastbound lane of the TSS, one incident in the westbound lane of the TSS, two incidents in the precautionary area, and one incident just outside (south) of the TSS.

“The ReCAAP ISC is concerned with the increase of incidents in the Singapore Strait. As the perpetrators of these incidents are not arrested, there is a possibility of further incidents in the Singapore Strait.

“All ships are advised to exercise utmost vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State,” it asserted.

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