Gangs of knife-wielding pirates attack several ships in Singapore Strait

Thieves attack three bulkers and two tankers in robbery spree.

Vessels belonging to several shipowners have come under attack from knife-wielding bandits who have been engaged in a robbing spree that began last Thursday morning.

Marshall Shipping, Huaxin Shipping, Great Eastern Shipping, Akij Shipping and Nissen Kaiun have all seen their ships targeted, the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reports.

The latest reported attack happened on Monday morning.

Engine room spares and a gold chain necklace were among the items stolen from two of the ships, while three other ships were left with shaken crews and nothing stolen.

The pirates are targeting vessels in the eastbound lane of the strait, with the latest attack taking place on Monday morning.

The sustained activity began just after midnight on Thursday morning when a group of knife-wielding pirates boarded Marshall Shipping’s 105,000-dwt tanker Bamzi (built 2003) while it was heading for the Chinese port of Qingdao.

The chief engineer and duty engineer sighted three perpetrators in the engine room, one of whom was armed with a knife.

The pirates fled the ship after the alarm was raised. A subsequent search found two motormen who had been tied up. Nothing was found to have been stolen from the ship.

The Bamzi’s master reported the attack to the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS), which initiated a safety navigational broadcast.

Early the next morning pirates boarded Huaxin Shipping 46,500-dwt bulk carrier Jian Fa (built 1996).

After being notified by the Singapore Police Coast Guard via the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) about the boarding, the crew of the Hong Kong-flagged bulker conducted a search but found no perpetrators on board. Nothing was reported stolen.

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Despite their fruitless initial attacks, the pirates returned to action late on Friday night, attacking Great Eastern Shipping Co’s 158,000-dwt tanker Jag Lalit (built

At about 11:25pm (1525 GMT) six pirates armed with knives boarded the Jag Lalit while it was transiting the strait en route to Taiwan. The ship’s fourth engineer was punched in the face, while the chief engineer sustained bruises on the neck and had a gold chain stolen from him.

The master reported the incident to Singapore VTIS and deviated the ship to Singapore to ensure the safety of his crew. Upon arrival in Singapore, the Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ship to conduct an investigation and verify that all crew were safe. The ship was then able to proceed to on its voyage Kaohsiung.

At about 11:38pm (1538 GMT), five armed pirates were sighted in the engine room of Akij Shipping’s 53,000-dwt bulk carrier Akij Globe (built 2003).

They fled the Bangladeshi-owned ship upon hearing its alarm, but were still able to make off with engine and generator spares.

The Akij Globe’s master reported the incident to the Singapore VTIS, noting that the pirates were using a small white boat. The ship subsequently arrived in Singapore, its intended destination, where an investigation was conducted by the Singapore Police Coast Guard.

No injuries to the crew were reported.

After a weekend break, attacks resumed on Monday morning when Nissen Kaiun’s 36,300-dwt bulker Trust Star (built 2012) was boarded by a gang of six pirates.

They confronted and tied up two crew members in the engine room, who later managed to untie themselves.

The pirates fled after the alarm was raised.

Unsure of the number of pirates on board, the Trust Star’s master headed for Singapore, escorted by patrol vessels of the Singapore Navy and Police Coast Guard.

A subsequent search revealed that nothing had been stolen and no pirates remained on board the vessel.

ReCAAP noted in a subsequent report that these five incidents, a total of 29 incidents have occurred in the Singapore Strait during 2019.

Of these, 15 occurred to ships while underway in the westbound lane of the strait, while 12 incidents occurred in the eastbound lane.

Locations of the three attacks that took place in the Singapore Strait on 20 December. Photo: ReCaap

“The ReCAAP ISC advises all ships to exercise enhanced vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State. The ReCAAP ISC recommends to the law enforcement agencies of the littoral States to step up surveillance, increase patrols and enhance cooperation and coordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents,” ReCAAP said.

The organisation previously cautioned that groups of armed robbers in the Singapore Strait were increasingly targeting large ships.

Maritime security experts believe that piracy in the Singapore Strait is carried out by crime syndicates operating in nearby Indonesian islands.

Source: TradeWinds