Amid Covid-19 Pandemic, Incidents Of Sea Piracy Doubles In Asia

A new report has claimed that incidents of piracy have doubled across Asia which has caused “deep concern”.

In the first half of the year, there were 50 incidents in the region compared to 25 such incidents in the same period a year ago.

Between January and June, there have been 16 incidents in the Singapore Strait, one of the busiest commercial shipping routes of the world.

According to experts, the rise in the incidents of piracy has been accorded to the downturn because of the novel coronaavirus pandemic. This was claimed in the half-yearly report of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

A growth in incidents of attacks on ships in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and the South China Sea were noted in the report.

The report identified an incident of piracy if they take place outside the jurisdiction of any state. Those happening within the state boundaries are considered to be armed robbery.

The spike in cases was worrying, said ReCAAP’s executive director Masafumi Kuroki.

“‘Small’ crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts,” he said.

According to Brandon Prins, a scholar of sea piracy at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, most of the incidents of piracy and armed robbery in Asia is opportunistic.

“(Sometimes) the pirates are local fishermen who see piracy as a way to supplement their incomes,” he said. “In other parts of Asia, many are jobless young men who have traveled to Batam [in Indonesia] or other places looking for work. Opportunistic piracy is just like armed robbery on shore – if you see something worth taking you might give it a shot.”

“We see incidents where three to eight people approach in a small boat and climb onto the bigger ship – usually with knives or other weapons to steal something then get off quickly.”

Scrap metal, engine parts, communication equipment from the ship’s bridge and personal belongings of the crew of ships for reselling on the black market were the popular items that were stolen during piracy incidents.

More people could be encouraged into criminal acts at sea because of the global pandemic, said Prins. “My fear has always been that Covid-19 would reduce global trade which lowers growth, increases poverty and joblessness (and then) leads to more sea piracy,” he added.

“There is certainly concern that with trade going down there will be fewer sailors on board ships (and therefore) fewer crew monitoring for potential pirates or armed robbers.”

While being rare, abductions also happen in Asia. One such incident off the coast of Lahad Datu, Malaysia, in January was detailed in the report of the ReCAAP.

The report stated that few off the crew members of looted ships who had been abducted from a fishing trawler are still being held in captivity.

An increase in violent attacks has also been noted globally.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a total of 77 seafarers were taken hostage or kidnapped for ransom since January across the world.

With more than 980 per cent of the maritime kidnappings worldwide, The Gulf of Guinea off West Africa has been singled out in the report.

(Adapted from BBC.com)

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