16 July 2014
Channel News Asia recently carried a report that piracy in Southeast Asia had surged, particularly in “the maritime trading hub of the Malacca Straits”, with the number of attacks in the region topping 150 in 2013. Similar reports have suggested that Southeast Asia is now the worst region globally for piracy.
These reports quoting the absolute number of attacks are misleading. To obtain a true appreciation of the current situation with piracy and sea robbery, it is necessary to look more closely at individual attacks, at what types of ship are being attacked, and where they are when attacked. A basic source of distortion occurs because a very minor incident of petty theft from a ship at anchor counts as one attack equivalent to a major incident of ship hijacking. This significantly inflates the number of attacks.
Overstating the risks of piracy may cause an over-reaction from the international community with extra costs for ship owners and higher charges for shippers. These additional costs might arise from increased insurance premiums and additional security charges, including the possible employment of armed guards. In an extreme example of over-reaction, ships may be deterred from using the Malacca and Singapore straits with significant economic implications for Singapore in particular.
Close analysis of the incidents of piracy and sea robbery in Southeast Asia shows that three categories of vessel are being attacked: ships in port or at anchor, small product tankers, and tugs and barges.
… Sam Bateman is an adviser to the Maritime Security Programme at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is a former senior Australian naval officer with research interests in piracy and maritime terrorism.
IDSS / RSIS / Online
Last updated on 16/07/2014