Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) warned its affiliates to remain vigilant against rising piracy in Southeast Asia.
Marine transport companies must strictly follow safety protocols and maintain frequent communications with their dispatchers, the state-owned corporation said in a statement.
According to Vinalines, pirates operating in Southeast Asia seek cargo and tend not to hold hostages for ransom like Somali pirates.
The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reported a total of 73 incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea in Asia during the first half of this year.
Of the 73 incidents reported, 18 were incidents of piracy and 55 were incidents of armed robbery against ships. Accordingly, 15 piracy incidents occurred in the East Sea (a.k.a. the South China Sea), two in the Bay of Bengal and one attempt in the Indian Ocean.
In July, the International Maritime Bureau’s (IBM) Piracy Reporting Center raised concerns over a worrying trend of small tanker hijackings in its mid-year 2014 report.
Globally, 116 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the PRC in the first six months of 2014, down 138 incidents compared to the corresponding period for 2013.
In Southeast Asia, at least six known cases of coastal tankers being hijacked for their diesel or petroleum cargo have been reported since April, sparking fears of a new trend in piracy attacks in the area, according to the report.
IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said the recent increase in the number of successful hijackings is cause for concern.
“These serious attacks have so far targeted small coastal tankers. We advise these vessels to maintain strict anti-piracy measures in these waters, and to report all attacks and suspicious approaches by small craft.”
The number of Somali pirate attacks continues to remain low; only 10 incidents were reported, including three vessels fired upon.
None of those vessels were boarded.
Vulnerable small tankers
Sam Bateman, adviser to the Maritime Security Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said small product tankers of about 1,000 gross tons are very common in regional waters.
“Due to their size, relatively slow speed and low freeboard when laden, they are particularly vulnerable to attack,” he said.
“A further problem arises because some of these vessels may not be compliant with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code which applies to most of these vessels and prescribes mandatory security requirements for them.”
According to Bateman, most ships transiting regional waters are not at risk unless they slow down or anchor in areas where attacks occur.
Major requirements to reduce the number of attacks in the region include better security in ports and anchorages and effective inter-agency coordination both at sea and onshore, he said.
“These attacks are invariably transnational in nature indicating the importance of close cooperation onshore between regional police forces to deal with this form of maritime crime.”