Five ships were boarded by pirates in the past four days while underway in the eastbound lane of Singapore Strait, according to piracy watchdog ReCAAP.
Of the five ships, three were bulkers and two were tankers. All seafarers were reported safe, with some items reported to be stolen from the attacked vessels.
“Due to the proximity of the incidents, the same group of perpetrators responsible for the incidents on December 20 and December 23, 2019, cannot be ruled out,” ReCAAP said. “The ReCAAP ISC advises all ships to exercise enhanced vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State. The ReCAAP ISC recommends to the law enforcement agencies of the littoral States to step up surveillance, increase patrols and enhance cooperation and coordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents.”
Three incidents were reported on December 20, when an unknown number of perpetrators boarded the bulk carrier, Jian Fa, while it was underway in the Singapore Strait bound for China.
Following a search on board the ship, the perpetrators could not be sighted. Nothing was stolen, all crew members were safe and the ship resumed its voyage. On the same day, a tanker named Jag Lalit was underway in the Singapore Strait bound for Kaoshiung, Taiwan, China when six perpetrators armed with knives boarded the ship.
The 4th Engineer was punched in the face; while the chief engineer sustained bruises on the neck and had a gold chain stolen from him. ReCAAP said that the master reported the incident to Singapore VTIS, and deviated the ship to Singapore to ensure the safety of the crew, before proceeding with the voyage.
“The Republic of Singapore Navy, Singapore Police Coast Guard and Indonesian authority were notified. A safety navigational broadcast was also initiated. Upon the ship’s arrival in Singapore, the Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ships for investigation and verified that all crew are safe.”
Finally, a bulk carrier named Akij Globe was boarded on the same evening while underway in the Singapore Strait. Five armed perpetrators were sighted in the engine room and the crew raised the alarm. Upon hearing the alarm, the perpetrators confronted three crew members in the engine room. The five perpetrators managed to escape in a white small boat having stolen engine and generator spares.
The master reported the incident to the Singapore VTIS and resumed its passage to Singapore. The crew was reported to be safe.
Just four days after the incidents, two more boardings were reported in the vicinity.
Specifically, on December 23, three men were sighted in the engine room of the tanker Bamzi, while the vessel was en route from Nipa anchorage, Indonesia to Qing Dao, China. As informed, one of the perpetrators was armed with a knife.
The alarm was raised and the three perpetrators escaped immediately. Two motormen were later found tied up by the perpetrators. A search on board the ship was conducted, with no further sighting of the perpetrators. The crew was safe, nothing was stolen and the ship resumed its voyage.
Shortly after, an incident was reported by the crew of the bulk carrier Trust Star, after they spotted six perpetrators on board the ship and raised the alarm. Upon hearing the alarm, the perpetrators escaped immediately. The gang had confronted and tied up two crew in the engine room, who later managed to untie themselves.
The master deviated from the voyage and sailed to the port of Singapore as he was not certain on the actual number of perpetrators on board. The RSN and Singapore Police Coast Guard subsequently escorted the ship to the port of Singapore.
Upon the ship’s arrival in port of Singapore, the Singapore Police Coast Guard boarded the ship and conducted a search on board. There was no further sighting of any perpetrator, the crew was safe and nothing was stolen.