Southeast Asia piracy threat increases

JULY 10, 2014 — Poole, U.K., headquartered Dryad Maritime is warning of an increasing threat from Southeast Asia piracy following the release of its second quarter figures. These show that the area continues to experience the highest number of maritime crime incidents in 2014 when compared to other traditional piracy hot spots.

The warning comes in the wake of the July 4 hijack of the tanker MT Moresby 9 off the Anambas Islands. Pirates boarded the vessel taking the crew hostage before stealing part of the 2,200 tonne cargo of Marine Gas Oil (MGO). The location of the vessel is still unknown.

This year alone has seen 12 reported cases of vessels being boarded underway and a further 19 reports of robberies, attempted robberies or suspicious approaches in the anchorages to the east of the Singapore Strait. The MT Ai Maru became the fifth product tanker to be hijacked since April 2014 when it was attacked at the end of last month.

Dryad cites the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability (NISS), a public policy think-tank , as attributing the increase in piracy in Southeast Asia to a number of causes. These include; over-fishing, poor maritime regulation, organized crime syndicates, widespread poverty and politically motivated groups. In addition, the NISS say the rise in trade in Southeast Asian waters adds further incentive for pirates. Overall trade in ASEAN increased by 16.8 per cent to US$2.1 trillion (S$2.6 trillion) in 2011 from 2010. In particular, ASEAN exports of mineral fuels and oils as well as their distilled products were worth US$228 billion in 2011.

The increased threat in the area comes as Dryad Maritime take steps to open new offices in the Asia Pacific region, providing regional companies with better access to their expanding suite of products and services.

"Our team of analysts have assessed that at least one gang is operating to the east of Singapore, hijacking small product tankers and stealing fuel cargoes," says Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer, Dryad Maritime. "These criminals have knowledge in the workings of ships' equipment and procedures for carrying out STS transfers. Without more proactive efforts by local maritime forces to counter this crime, we predict further incidents of this type in the region".

Dryad Maritime is also warning seafarers transiting the southern Philippines and adjacent coasts to maintain vigilance following the attack on the yacht, MY Catherine, during the second quarter.

"Abu Sayyaf continues to operate with impunity," says Mike Edey, Head of Operations, Dryad Maritime. "Although the majority of their activity centers on coastal terrorist attacks, the kidnap of a German couple from MY Catherine serves as a reminder of the need for caution. While there is no evidence that Abu Sayyaf will start to target larger, commercial vessels in the region, as a politically motivated group the possibility to develop such a capability remains."

Dryad's warning comes as the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) is reported to have initiated routing measures for commercial vessels to help improve maritime security in the region.

Better news comes in the Horn of Africa section of Dryad's quarterly figures, where the company welcomes the release of the remaining 11 crew members from MV Albedo and praises those involved in the release of the seafarers and support of their families.  After almost four years in captivity and having seen other crew members released in 2012, the remaining crew endured extended misery that included the sinking of their ship, as well as the death and disappearance of other crew members.

"The release of Albedo's remaining crew has been great news, but it highlights the good, the bad and the tragic in the story of Somali piracy," says Mr. Millen. "Good in that we have seen charities such as the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) work tirelessly with others to support the seafarers and their families; bad in that the owner of the vessel reportedly abandoned the crew resulting in a longer than necessary captivity and tragic in that approximately 40 seafarers remain in captivity.  Seafarers who get precious little attention from the wider media or general public.  We must not forget them."

Dryad's analysis of second quarter statistics collating maritime crime incidents from across the Gulf of Guinea, Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden, can be downloaded HERE

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