In the light of three incidents where the crew of tug boats were abducted in the waters off Eastern Sabah and Southern Philippines, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) published a special report on the ‘Abducting of Crew from Tug Boats in Waters off Eastern Sabah and Southern Philippines’ in April 2016.
A follow up report has now been published, entitled ‘Special Report on Abducting of Crew from Ships in Waters off Eastern Sabah and Southern Philippines (Part II)’, providing an update of the situation, which focuses on the modus operandi of the perpetrators, the status of the abducted crew and the actions taken to combat the events that have occurred.
Between March and July 2016, six incidents occurred on board five tug boats towing barges and one fishing trawler, as detailed by the map below.
As a result of these six incidents, 33 crew members have been abducted. So far, 18 crew members have been released (thought to be as a result of ransoms being paid), whilst the remaining 15 crew are still being held in captivity.
The modus operandi in the six incidents was similar, as the perpetrators targeted the crew, rather than the ship or its cargo. ReCAAP ISC report that it is common for perpetrators to target slow-moving ships, during daylight hours while using fast speed boats and carrying firearms.
As a result of the incidents, government officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have held meetings to discuss immediate regional maritime and security challenges affecting the three countries. This has led to a Joint Declaration, which aims to address the security issues that are common concerns amongst the three countries.
Furthermore, the ReCAAP ISC and the Philippines Coast Guard are working together to monitor the situation closely, sharing the latest information, best practices and lessons learned with the shipping industry and regional authorities.
ReCAAP ISC Advice
The ReCAAP ISC advises that the shipping industry should adopt the following measures when in the vicinity of Eastern Sabah and the Southern Philippines:
• Enhance vigilance and increase security watch rotations;
• Sound the alarm if unknown people are sighted on board ship, or suspicious boats are seen in the vicinity;
• Maintain a continuous watch on any reports concerning urgent maritime safety information, such as those that may be published on NAVTEX, an automated piece of equipment that either prints out or displays a hard copy on an LCD screen of urgent maritime safety information to ships amongst other things;
• Report all incidents in accordance with the IMO circular MSC.1/Circ.1334 on ‘Revised guidance to shipowners, ship operators, ship masters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships’;
• Maintain continuous communication with technical managers and enforcement agencies;
• Avoid confrontation with perpetrators;
• Refer to ReCAAP ISC’s website at www.recaap.org for updates on incidents and trends;
• Conduct risk assessments; and
• Reroute/avoid danger areas if feasible.
Source: The Standard Club