Tanker vetting group aims to keep the lid on growth of piracy and hijackings with new agreement.
Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) plans to enter the fight against piracy in Asia with a new information sharing agreement.
OCIMF, which administers the most widely used database for vetting tankers, says the agreement is with the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).
ReCAAP is an inter-government group that runs an information sharing centre about incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia.
OCIMF and ReCAAP formed a working group in late 2015 to address safety issues for ships transiting Asian waters. The new agreement will disburse safety information more widely and aims to “safeguard the interest of ships and seafarers operating in Asia.”
Masafumi Kuroki, who heads ReCAAP’s information sharing centre, says incidences of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia have gradually declined over the last few years.
But “continued vigilance and engagement with stakeholders are essential in safeguarding the interests of ships and seafarers operating in Asia,” Kuroki added.
“ReCAAP information sharing centre’s deepening partnership with OCIMF represents our commitment to work with industry to support the safety and security of ship owners and mariners.”
OCIMF’s director Andrew Cassels said: “We have common values with the ReCAAP information Sharing Centre to keep seafarers safe and the maritime highways secure. In today’s uncertain world, industry must work collaboratively and support governments in protecting our vital interests ensuring global trade can be safely conducted.”
As fighting between terrorists and government forces in Mindanao continues, the Philippine government has rolled out countermeasures to prevent the escape of members of the ISIS-inspired Maute group via maritime routes. Manila has announced two major maritime security initiatives to prevent ISIS-inspired militants from fleeing to neighboring islands near the Malaysian and Indonesian borders.
Making its first move, the Philippine government signed a maritime security agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia to hold joint trilateral naval patrols in the Philippine-Malaysia-Indonesia maritime border area.
Under the joint naval collaborative program, called Indomaphil, the three nations agreed that their naval assets will be allowed to enter any of the three countries’ maritime territory when pursuing terrorist suspects. In a joint statement, the three nations said that “the collaboration is to prevent extremists from making Southeast Asia or any country a base for their operations.”
The Philippine military says that the terrorists in Marawi are not only Filipinos. Some of them were reported to be nationals from Malaysia, Indonesia and Middle East. Defense officials say that one of the challenges of fighting terror in Southeast Asia is that the terrorists can move to three different countries in less than 24 hours.
Aside from the ASEAN collaboration, the Philippine government is also intensifying security measures in Philippine ports to thwart terror attacks from the local terrorist group.
The demand for intense security developed when three members of the ISIS-inspired Maute group attempted to use seaports for their escape. With close monitoring and intensified port security, the three suspects were arrested in the port of Iloilo, Panay on board a ship arriving from Mindanao. The Philippine Coast Guard alerted the sea marshall upon receiving intelligence reports that suspected terrorists were on board the ship and the suspects were eventually caught.
Commodore Joel Garcia, officer-in-charge of the PCG attributed the success of the arrested suspects to the vigilance of shipping companies. “Security will always be dependent on the cooperation of shipping companies to the Coast Guard,” Garcia told Philippine journalists.
While countermeasures to prevent terrorist violence on the sea are already in place, the Coast Guard will also be deploying manpower in tourist beach resorts that could be a potential target of terrorists’ kidnapping and bombing attacks.
But despite the intensified security measures on the Philippine-Malaysia-Indonesia border, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) has warned shipowners to reroute their vessels to avoid identified threats in the region.
ReCAAP was referring to the Sulu and Celebes seas, where two Vietnamese sailors were abducted and later beheaded by suspected terrorists after the victims’ families failed to deliver a ransom. ReCAAP reports that about 59 crew members have been abducted in the Sulu Celebes seas and the Malaysian border of Eastern Sabah since last year, and the abductors have been reported to demand huge ransoms for the release of their captives. The Asian media report that the same abductors have raked in at least $12 million from their maritime kidnapping and extortion activities in the region.
Source: The Maritime Executive
The crisis has further increased the focus on the institution within Philippine security.
The recent siege by Islamic State-linked militants in the southern Philippine city in Marawi is just the latest sign of what some regional observers, myself included, have long warned about: the growing threat of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia and the grave consequences it can have for states in the subregion
The focus of foreign media outlets has tended to be on outside assistance given to the Philippines, which is no doubt important given the fact that Manila still has one of the weakest militaries in the region. But there are also ongoing, albeit modest attempts in the Philippines to boost the country’s capabilities. One of the examples is the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which is part of a wider trend in the region of the increased emphasis on coast guards
The historical evolution of the PCG, which officially dates back to its founding back over a century ago with shifting designations and roles, is interesting in and of itself. And though its capabilities are still quite limited and familiar challenges still remain, there have been attempts to boost them in recent years dating back to former president Benigno Aquino III, where it saw a rise in funding, personnel, as well as equipment with the help of countries such as Japan and the United States.
While it is too early to assess the degree to which we have seen continuity with respect to that under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte given that he is just over one year into his six-year term, there is little doubt that the Marawi siege, combined with the greater emphasis on trilateral cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas, has catalyzed Manila’s emphasis on its coast guard capabilities
Perhaps the clearest illustration of this was last month, when the PCG took over security operations for all seaports in Mindanao from the Maritime Industry Authority and the Philippine Ports Authority under an order issued by the Department of Transportation. The order is expected to remain in force at least until martial law in Mindanao is lifted.
In one other notable development, apart from the trilateral patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia that have dominated the headlines, to further reduce the risks for transiting ships, the PCG has also established a Recommended Transit Corridor (RTC) between the Moro Gulf and the Basilan Strait, which would be monitored heavily by nearby law enforcement units.
This week, Commodore Joel Garcia, who is currently the officer-in-charge of the PCG, also said that amid fears of a potential spillover of the terror threat to other parts of the Philippines in spite of these moves, the organization could set up a new regional office in Negros Island Region (NIR), along with other infrastructure like a training center and additional stations in southern Negros Occidental. That came as no surprise. Considering that Negros lies close to Mindanao and straddles the Sulu Sea, it would enable the PCG to react faster to threats.
These measures have been paired with a stricter implementation of previous policies that may not grab as many headlines but are nonetheless crucial from a security standpoint. To take just one example, the PCG has been tasked with getting stricter in terms of ensuring ships comply with its Safety, Security, and Environmental Numbering System.
Of course, it is still early days in all this, and the efficacy of these measures remains to be seen. During the release of a biennial update on the status of piracy in Asia this week, Masafumi Kuroki, the executive director of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), rightly pointed out that it was no coincidence that we have seen no abductions reported in the area over the past two months.
But on the other hand, as we have seen in the case of the Malacca Straits, another major waterway in the region, these figures can often fluctuate during various reporting periods due to various factors other than the level of enforcement by states. It will probably require a few more reporting cycles before we are able to truly assess things.
It is also important to emphasize that the PCG’s capabilities still remain quite limited, with familiar problems including corruption still existing and continuing to periodically surface publicly. And though boosts continue to come in with the help of regional partners – with the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project with Japan being a case in point – there remain concerns about the institution’s bandwidth.
Commodore Joel Garcia, the Coast Guard officer-in-charge, foreshadowed some of this earlier this month when he addressed the issue of whether the PCG would be able to handle maritime emergencies with all the additional responsibilities it has to fill in Marawi. Not unlike neighboring Southeast Asian states, a key challenge for the Philippines remains how to confront manifold challenges with the limited resources it still has.
Source: The Diplomat
“We hate you. It’s your fault that we are sitting here like animals in a cage. It’s humiliating that white men always come and take photos of us and repeat the same stupid questions,” scoffs the pirates’ spokesman, Abdi Mahad.
There are 47 ex-pirates locked up in Garowe, most of them serving decades-long sentences. According to the prison warden, only the lowest ranking pirates are doing time in the EU-funded facility, along with soldiers from the jihadist insurgent group al-Shabab, petty cattle thieves, and domestic abusers.
This is what the flagship of Western engagement looks like up close: 47 luckless men behind bars on a rocky plateau in a country tested by drought and instability.
But the fight against piracy has produced results. To protect the shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden, the international powers sent warships and the EU trained the Somali coast guard. At piracy’s peak in 2010-13, more than 100 ships were being hijacked per year and millions of dollars paid in ransom. In 2015 and most of 2016 there were no successful hijackings.
The EU’s Operation Atalanta is still patrolling the Gulf of Aden alongside the Indian, Russian, and Chinese navies. But NATO’s vessels left for other hot spots in December last year, and the pressure on the pirates has decreased considerably.
As a result, the attacks have begun again. At least five ships have been hijacked off the coast of Somalia this year, among them the oil tanker Aris 13 and a fishing vessel, which was transformed into a so-called mother ship from where new hijackings can be orchestrated.
Piracy’s money capital
Puntland, a rugged province at the tip of the Horn of Africa, is where piracy began; it’s also from here that several of the recent attacks have been launched.
Puntland is an autonomous region, slightly better off than the rest of Somalia, but it still suffers from chronic poverty and insecurity. It is where so-called Islamic State has established a toehold, and is also a base for al-Shabab. Every week there are assassinations, ambushes, and suicide attacks.
Garowe, 200 kilometres from the coast, houses the region’s politicians and business elite. Lots of investment in the pirate industry has come from the wealthy in this city. The evidence is in the skyline: the unmistakable Holy Day hotel for example, shaped like the hull of a ship, is owned by a famous pirate who has now transformed it into apartments.
In front of another of the city’s hotels waits a 10-metre-long pink limousine. Ali Ahmed rents it out for $50 an hour and says there was a great demand for it during the heyday of piracy. Now it’s only in use a couple of times a month, mostly for weddings. One of the front wheels is flat.
Garowe is a surprisingly cosmopolitan city. There are electricians from India, Pakistani construction workers, Kenyan chefs, Ugandan receptionists, tattooed South African security guards, and several Somalis who have returned from distant places like Stockholm, Melbourne, and Minnesota.
People walking in the streets are not armed. Money is still being laundered, but the criminals have become more discreet. The notorious arms dealer Gaagaale – “he who stutters” – no longer has a shed down by the roundabout. You can, however, still buy Makarov pistols from him for $1,600 or a Kalashnikov for $1,400 if you know someone who has his number. Apparently, my Danish-Somali guide does.
The criminal networks
We drive to the Puntland Development Research Center, a respected NGO, to find out how the pirates have made a comeback after seemingly being reduced to a problem of the past.
“Their access to ships was blocked, but the criminal networks prevailed. Therefore, they have resumed the attacks now that the world seems to have forgotten about them again,” explains Abdinasir Yusuf, who has been researching piracy and criminal networks in Somalia for 10 years.
“Only the increased number of guards on the ships means that the scale of piracy is smaller this time around.”
The first pirates were fishermen who attacked ships that exploited the lawlessness of Somalia to trawl the sea for fish and dump toxic waste. But Yusuf believes this romantic depiction has long lost its truth.
“It’s not about fish. It’s cynical opportunism. Criminals do what they can get away with – not what they can make a moral case for,” he notes.
“The same organised criminals who run the piracy network have committed a lot of other crimes as well.”
He tells me about a Somali awareness campaign, which the head of the research centre, Ali Farah Ali, participated in together with the aldermen, imams, and clan leaders.
“They … challenged the local mafia by presenting real arguments against the benefits of being recruited as a pirate. They are the pirate conflict’s unsung heroes. Unlike many Western-led awareness campaigns, they were both matter-of-fact and unpretentious,” Yusuf says.
The director himself says he showed illiterate young men in the coastal cities videos of how pirate ships were blown up and statistics proving how few pirates actually struck it rich.
These kinds of initiatives have helped stigmatise piracy. There is evidence of this everywhere in Garowe. Some semi-completed palaces are rapidly turning into dilapidated ruins because nobody wanted to buy them from the pirates when they ran out of money.
Most local businessmen now oppose them. One of them is 32-year-old Ahmed Jama Jowle who earned his money selling used cars and office furniture. Three years ago he opened Classic Stadium, an astroturfed arena. “I wanted to give youngsters an alternative to joining up with the pirates,” he explains.
It’s evening and the floodlights illuminate a Ramadan Cup game. The quality of the football is quite good – Garowe has won the Somali championship. But only a few, if any, of the boys will be able make a living playing soccer; several of them tell you that nine out of 10 of their friends are unemployed.
Piracy may have taken a hit, but according to the think tanks OEF Research, Oceans Beyond Piracy, and Secure Fisheries, new business models are being developed by its entrepreneurial leaders – including people smuggling and arms smuggling.
“Pirates have been smuggling migrants for a long time,” one of the main authors of the report, Ben Lawellin, explains in an email. “It has helped them stay afloat while the piracy was at a low point, and the practice has helped finance the recent attacks.”
On the outskirts of Garowe is a large camp for refugees and internally displaced persons. “We call it Washington because the tall solar cell lampposts resemble skyscrapers at night from a distance,” laughs 20-year-old cook Idil Ghalbi. She is sitting in front of a small restaurant with walls of milk cartons, together with some women who are also Somalis born in Ethiopia.
They have fled the unrelenting clan wars of the border region and a drought that has left over six million Somalis in need of emergency aid. On her way from the border to Garowe, she was forced to pay (all told) the equivalent of $1,800 to unknown gunmen at the countless roadblocks.
Out of Puntland
Two of Africa’s largest migrant routes run through Puntland up to the region’s big northern port city of Bosaso. One goes from there by boat to Yemen and on to the Gulf States, the other via Sudan and Libya to Europe.
It’s estimated that each migrant on these routes pays smugglers around $10,000. Usually the amount is only due near the end of the journey, but the stories of abuse and extortion en route are legion and shocking.
A spokesperson for the ‘Washington’ camp estimates that each month about 100 people quietly leave. They rarely talk about their plans, since it’s forbidden to migrate, which only increases the opportunities for smugglers to take advantage.
A year ago, Abdikadir Mohamud Barre left Kismayo in southern Somalia with the intention of reaching Europe, since it was only al-Shabab that could offer him a steady job. The 23-year-old was arrested in Ethiopia and sent to the jail in Garowe, where the pirates also serve time.
His journey started when he was asked by someone he was chewing khat (a mildly narcotic leaf heavily used across the region) with whether he wanted to migrate. His answer was “yes”. Then they called some local smugglers who arranged everything and told him precisely what to do. He never met the smuggler bosses.
“But there were Somalis along the entire smuggler route and many of them looked like hardcore criminals – whether some of them were pirates, I don’t know,” he says.
We are interrupted by a malnourished cat throwing itself against the plastic window in the prison’s living room. “Everyone wants to leave, as you can see. I’ll try again as soon as I am released.”
The criminal networks are difficult to map because most people with access to first-hand information about their methods work for the intelligence agencies and rarely give interviews. But through a common acquaintance I convince one to make an exception.
He is Somali, does freelance consultancy for foreign intelligence services, and has just completed several months of fieldwork among Puntland’s migrant smugglers.
We meet on the roof terrace of my hotel. A minaret calls to evening prayer, and the street below us is full of children playing, and bleating goats. I’m allowed to read an excerpt from his report, in which a number of confirmed migrant smugglers are mentioned by name.
“It was not the focus of the report, but I found out that several pirate moneymen have become rich off of the migrant smuggling,” he says.
“One of them is a police officer. He told me that he has earned a great deal of money on migrant smuggling. He claimed not to be active anymore, but several other smugglers said he was. According to the police officer and the other smugglers, the pirate bosses and their networks play a major role in both the smuggling of weapons and human beings.”
The consultant explains that there are no clear boundaries between the criminal networks based on the type of crime they commit. “Instead, they are separated from each other based on which regions they operate from,” he says.
“The same boats often smuggle migrants to Yemen and weapons the other way. Those who are based east of Bosaso are focused on selling weapons to Islamic State – those west of Bosaso typically sell to al-Shabab.”
It is easier for the terrorist groups to work together with the smugglers than to do the smuggling themselves. And it makes sense for former pirates to invest in any type of ship-borne smuggling.
“It is a big logistical operation to transport, house, and feed migrants who do not pay in advance. The moneymen behind the pirates and their network of business people from the same clan have this money,” the consultant says.
“And they needed something to invest in after it became difficult to hijack ships in Puntland around 2012 because of all the foreign warships and guards on the ships.”
Friends in high places
Puntland’s smuggling gangs collaborate not only with pirates and terrorists, but also with some of the region’s politicians. These politicians are dependent on shady arms deals because the UN has had an arms embargo placed on Somalia since 1992.
Each year, a UN monitoring group produces a detailed report on how effectively the embargo is enforced, and the report is always full of exciting details about Somalia’s organised criminals. The latest report from October deals with, among others, the pirate boss Isse Mohamoud Yusuf ‘Yullux’s’ relationships with politicians, weapons smugglers, and Islamists.
It was Yullux who kidnapped a Danish yachting family from Kalundborg in 2011. Yullux’s orange henna-bearded cousin, Sheikh Abdulqader Mumin, leads IS in Somalia, which is part of the so-called Qandala-Hafun network.
Among the network’s well-known political friends in Puntland is a former minister of fisheries and the governor of the Bari region from 2011-15. According to the report, a representative of the network transfers $4,000 per month to an account in the Puntland Treasury Department for each illegal foreign fishing vessel once more bottom trawling off the coast, with former pirates employed as private security guards.
Jonnah Leff, who has researched Somali smuggling networks for Conflict Armament Research since 2013, confirms by email that Puntland’s government is most likely still using these smugglers to provide weapons for their soldiers: “It’s systemic. It’s also why the smugglers are able to continue operating with impunity. They’re all related by clan.”
One of the most prominent critics of the links between pirates, politicians, smugglers, and extremists is Abdirizak Dirir ‘Duaysane’. He founded Puntland’s anti-piracy unit in 2010 and until recently he led it with considerable success. From May 2012 to this year, no pirate was paid a ransom fee in Puntland.
According to Duaysane, piracy has returned because Iranian, Yemeni, and Asian trawlers have impunity. They need to be stopped, or even more angry fishermen will join the ranks of the pirates, Duaysane warned in an interview with BBC Somalia in March this year. That same evening, he was fired.
“The government of Puntland is systematically collaborating with pirates and illegal bottom trawlers,” Duaysane told me when I met him at the extravagant Laico Regency Hotel in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “They do not fight maritime crime, but are accomplices to it.”
Source: Hellenic Shipping News
Nigeria has deployed warships and troops in a massive operation to end pirates’ attacks on local and international merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea, the Nigerian navy said Wednesday.
The operation sought to contain high spate of attacks by thieves on critical oil and gas installations and other criminality prevalent in the nation’s territorial waters, the country’s Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Iboke-Ete Ibas, said.
He spoke at the launch of the special operation, code-named “Tsare Teku V”, in Onne, Rivers State.
The operation was a continuation of an earlier operation launched in the first quarter of 2016 to protect offshore oil and gas facilities and economic activities, he added.
According to him, the operation has yielded positive results with significant improvement in the safety of shipping and offshore oil and gas facilities.
“It is gratifying to note that between January and June 2017, there were only four successful attacks on shipping within Nigeria’s waters as against 36 between January and June 2016,” he said.
“This improvement in security situation within Nigeria’s offshore maritime domain is attributable to the intensive patrols and efforts of Operation Tsare Teku,” the navy chief added.
Ibas said the International Maritime Bureau in its first quarter 2017 report on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea attributed current decline to the efforts of the Nigerian navy.
The navy chief added that the report observed that the area remained a kidnap hot spot for criminals, especially hijackers.
“This report re-emphasizes the need for sustenance of the operation, and as such, made it imperative to extend the operation by another six months,” he said.
“The Nigerian Navy remains absolutely committed to creating a secure and enabling maritime environment for economic activities to thrive toward national growth,” Ibas added.
The Gulf of Guinea, which is believed to hold as much as 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, has been plagued by pirates, smugglers and other criminals.
Source: Xinhua Net
Mr. Leonel Medina, M.Sc.Tecnical Officer of SEGUMAR Panama
1. The Panamanian Ship Registry is committed to contribute to the improvement of the maritime security onboard the vessels under the fleet and as well to provide a safe and secure workplace to the seafarers.
2. The department in charge to manage this subject matter is the Maritime Ships Security department, which is under the organization administration of the Merchant Marine Directorate.
3. The ship owners and ships operators will find the guidelines and recommendations in this topic of maritime security in the Merchant Marine Circulars from the website www.segumar.com
4. The Panama Maritime Authority have in the future plans to carry out on-site audits of all the authorized PMSC’s.
5. Any further questions and/or inquiries can be addressed to the email email@example.com
A US Senate panel has asked the Pentagon to increase maritime security in Bangladesh, a move seen as a counter move to Chinese influence in the region
A powerful Senate panel has asked Pentagon to expand its maritime security initiative to three additional countries, including Bangladesh.
The two other countries are Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Such a move by the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee is seen as part of the American move to counter the increasing Chinese influence in the Asia Pacific region.
In its voluminous report running more than 600 pages that accompanied the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018, the Senate Armed Services Committee directed the Department of Defense to continue with the Maritime Security Initiative.
“In addition, the committee believes that, consistent with new authorities, the Secretary should expand the Department’s efforts under the Maritime Security Initiative to encompass additional countries, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar,” the report said.
The defense secretary should also include India among the countries eligible for payment of incremental expenses in connection with training under the Initiative, the report said.
The report by Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain, came as the US Pacific Command Commander Navy Admiral Harry B Harris concluded his visit to Bangladesh, during which he met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
During Harris’ first visit to Bangladesh as PACOM’s commander, he also participated in the dedication of a $3.6 million multinational training facility at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operations Training.
“The United States and Bangladesh cooperate closely on security issues ranging from counterterrorism to peacekeeping,” a State Department Spokesperson told the Bangla Tribune on Tuesday.
“Counter Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism assistance to Bangladesh is designed to help the government address terrorism threats from domestic and transnational terrorist organisations,” the spokesperson said.
“US assistance builds the government’s capacity to impede these groups’ efforts to plan and conduct attacks by cutting off important sources of support to these groups, such as funding and recruiting, and addressing the drivers of radicalisation to violence,” the official said.
The State Department official added, the United States and Bangladesh share a long history of cooperation and a vision for a tolerant, democratic Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh serves as a bridge for commerce between South and Southeast Asia and an anchor for stability and prosperity in the region,” the spokesperson said.
“On pressing global concerns from health to food security to countering violent extremism, our countries and our people share complementary goals and visions,” the official said in response to a question.
Source: Dhaka Tribune
Chinese naval vessels were greeted by NATO’s flagship in the North Sea as the Chinese fleet headed for the Baltic region for the first time to carry out joint maritime exercises with Russia.
According to the official Twitter account for NATO Maritime Command, Standing NATO Maritime Group One flagship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup greeted the Chinese Navy task group in the North Sea while the SNMG1 flagship was conducting a Maritime Situational Awareness patrol in the North and Baltic seas.
It added that NATO ships have previously worked with Chinese task groups in the Gulf of Aden while conducting counter-piracy patrols. The last time Chinese ships paid a visit to the North Sea and Baltic region was in October 2015.
China and Russia have held joint drills every year since 2012. The Chinese Ministry of National Defense said that this year’s exercises will focus on joint rescue efforts and protecting cargo vessels, Global Times reported.
The Chinese fleet is expected to reach the Baltic region on July 21 and the joint exercises will last till July 28.
Nearly 10 ships and over 10 aircraft and helicopters from the Russian and Chinese navies will join the first-phase exercises, Russian news agency Sputnik reported.
China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer the 052D, which is equipped with phased array radar and a vertical launching system, will also participate in the drills, according to Global Times.
With the Philippine-based terrorist group, the Abu Sayyaf, executing three Vietnamese sailors this month, a regional watchdog on piracy has urged the shipping industry to exercise extreme caution and even re-route their vessels to avoid the dangerous areas.
“Although there have been no new abductions since May, the situation is not yet stable,” ReCAAP Executive Director Masafumi Kuroki said Tuesday during the release of its half-yearly update on the status of piracy in Asia.
Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, or ReCAAP, is an anti-piracy watchdog.
“We keep our advise to the shipping industry to reroute the ships where possible against the potential threat or otherwise remain very vigilant,” Kuroki said.
Earlier this month, the Abu Sayyaf group killed a Vietnamese sailor in the Sulu village of Buhanginan. The murder comes close on the heels of the beheading of two other Vietnamese sailors in Basilan, where a total of six were abducted in November last year from the ship MV Royal.
The twin tragedies for the Vietnamese come at a time when countries along the Sulu and Celebes Sea have come together to strengthen patrols for tackling the menace of piracy and terrorism.
The trend is significant because billions of dollars worth of commodities are shipped on merchant vessels in the vicinity of the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea region, according to industry estimates.
A month ago, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, or INDOMALPHI, launched a trilateral maritime patrol agreement to face piracy, armed robbery against ships, kidnapping of crew at sea and other transnational crime along the shared borders of these countries.
Given the vast areas to be patrolled, three maritime command centers have been established in Bongao, Philippines, Tawau, Malaysia and Tarakan, West Kalimantan. Work is also in progress to approve and sign Standard Operating Procedures and IRRs or Implementation Rules and Regulations.
Nevertheless, concern remains due to the threat from pirates, terrorists and robbers. Since March last year, 59 crew members have been abducted in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and waters off Eastern Sabah, of which at least four were killed and 16 are still in captivity. So far this year, three actual incidents and four attempted incidents of abduction of crew from the region have been reported.
After abductions, ransom is demanded by organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf group, he said.
“Some shipping companies are avoiding this area and opting for other routes even though it takes more days and pushes up the cost,” Kuroki said.
He added that in view of the high level of threat, last month, the Philippines Coast Guard, or PCG established a Recommended Transit Corridor, or RTC, between Moro Gulf and Basilan Strait.
RTC is a route designated for transiting ships to reduce the risk of collision and minimizing threat of piracy. It is monitored by law enforcement units that are closeby. A similar corridor is also recommended along Sibutu, he said.
To enforce appropriate security levels, last month, PCG also took over the security operations for all seaports in Mindanao, he said, adding that all Philippines-registered ships operating in the country’s waters are also being allotted a special number, to prevent them from being used by perpetrators to abduct crew for ransom or carry out acts of piracy, sea robbery and terrorism.
“There has not been any case reported for abduction of crew in the region in the last two months and it is hoped that the trend will continue as the regulations enforced by the Philippines authorities is producing results,” he said.
Another positive development is that the total of 36 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships — including 30 actual and six attempted — reported in Asia during the first half of the year, was down 22% from the same period in 2016, Kuroki said.
Source: Hellenic Shipping News
Mr. Panagiotis Nikiteas, PGDip, MSc, MEd, HSQE Manager / DPA / CSO of Anangel Maritime.
“Industry needs improved transparency, strict compliance and enforcement in relation to PMSCs modus operandi through close cooperation of involved parties, flow of information, use of technology, detailed due diligence and self-assessment.
Furthermore, many debate that the time has come that Guardcon 15(b)(ii) to be revisited to ensure that it will not be misunderstood as constituting a nullifying effect of the obligations.”