ReCAAP yesterday took the unusual step of issuing an alert for the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) following three robbery attempts made on vessels transiting the region in a matter of hours.
While there is currently no proof that the attacks were carried out by the same gang, the proximity of each attack and the timings do suggest that either the same group or two groups operating together may have been responsible. The first incident, at 0221 LT saw the bulk carrier, Densa Shark, boarded by three men armed with knives, but nothing was stolen. The second, some two and a half hours later saw the LNG tanker, Clipper Posh, boarded and five men spotted in the engine room. Again, nothing was taken. The third boarding on the tanker, Pro Triumph, again featured five robbers who tied up the Chief and First Engineers before making off with engine spares.
There have been a variety of reports in the media suggesting that these were “pirates”. There is, of course, a very clear legal definition of piracy and these are obviously instances of armed robbery rather than piracy. The region has seen a number of high profile pirate attacks so far in 2015. At the time of writing, the Orkim Harmony, hijacked whilst carrying a cargo of petrol, has been located in Cambodian waters with a new name. There is speculation that the pirates were hoping to find an oil cargo which is much less volatile to transfer and the petrol cargo may be causing them difficulties. However, it’s also true that vessels have historically been hijacked and renamed by pirates. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) is currently engaged in a large scale search for the ship and its crew.