Warning Issued Over Increase in Sea Robberies in Singapore Strait

Singapore Strait
Robberies are increasing for ships in the Singapore Strait (file photo)

Published Aug 10, 2023 5:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

A new warning was issued after a rash of robberies aboard bulkers underway in the Singapore Strait. The monitoring and reporting organization ReCAAP based in Singapore is reporting four incidents in the past three days with a strong increase in incidents so far in 2023. As of the beginning of August, ReCAAP warns that the number of reports equals all of those for 2022.

ReCAAP and private security firms have repeatedly issued warning noting the strong increase in robberies and boarding of vessels over the past few years in the Singapore Strait. While most of the incidents involve theft and rarely are the boarders armed, ReCAAP highlights the increased danger in the region.

Within three days, between August 7 and 9, four new incidents all aboard underway dry bulk carriers were reported. Three of the incidents were in a small area at the western end of the strait near Indonesia and all involved the Capesize bulkers, the largest ships of the class. The vessels included the Liberian-registered Doric Warrior (93,000 dwt), the Liberian-registered Osaka Star (85,000 dwt), and the Cyprus-registered Sophocles Graecia (82,000 dwt), as well as the Jal Kala, a smaller 63,000 dwt bulker registered in the Marshall Islands that was boarded at the eastern end of the strait.

In only one of the cases, the boarders had knives. In three cases they were seen in the engine room of the vessel while in one case they were spotted outside on deck. In each of the incidents engine spare parts were stolen but no crewmembers were injured. In most boardings of this kind in the Singapore Strait, when the intruders are discovered they flee and rarely engage directly with the crew.

“The ReCAAP ISC urges the littoral states to increase patrols/surveillance in their respective waters, respond promptly to incidents reported by ships, and strengthen coordination,” they write in the report. This comes as they have recorded a strong increase in incidents.

ReCAAP Singapore Strait robberies 2023

ReCAAP is highlighting a cluster of activity at the western side of the Singapore Strait (ReCAAP)

Since January 2023, a total of 51 incidents have been reported in the Singapore Strait and four additional reports nearby in the Malacca Strait. The 55 reports are equal to the total number of reports for 2022 in the Singapore Strait and far exceed the 38 reported in the same period in 2022.

ReCAAP notes it is especially concerned with the cluster of incidents in the Philip Channel, off Pulau Cula, Indonesia. Three of the recent reports were in that area, which has been part of the increase in activity in 2023.

Ships are being advised to “intensify vigilance and maintain a sharp look-out,” while transiting the area. The danger is particularly during the hours of darkness.

The increase in piracy in the areas comes as overall the level of activity worldwide has fallen to record lows in 2023. Recently, there has been a small increase in incidents off West Africa and in the broader areas of the Gulf of Guinea. While the African incidents have included some kidnappings, overall, the number of seafarers being held has also fallen in part due increase security activities and preventative measures taken by ships and their owners with the support of international navies patrolling in particular off West Africa.

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