The Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) has emphasised that there is a difference between piracy and sea robbery and the media should know this as sovereign states respond differently to each incident type.
In a statement issued on 22 June, the SSA said that a study it commissioned showed that many of the incidents that occurred in Southeast Asia in the first quarter of 2015 should be classified as sea robbery.
Unlike piracy, which refers to attacks in international waters, sea robbery happens in territorial waters and is thus under the littoral state’s jurisdiction.
The SSA said, “The distinction determines whether a merchant vessel can seek protection from the navy/coastguard of the littoral state or from the navy/coastguard of the vessel’s flag of registry.”
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Maritime Security News:
This is an issue we’ve covered in the past. The media tend to highlight any maritime crime as ‘piracy’, regardless of the legal niceties. That the definition of the crime should affect the response is an interesting one for the SSA to highlight, but valuable nonetheless.
However, the fact remains that at least 11 ships have been hijacked so far in 2015. That number could easily be 12, as the jury is still out on the hijacking of the timber carrier, KM Mutiara.
Whilst the prevailing crimes in the region are indeed robbery and theft, their impact should not be diminished. The psychological impact of an armed robbery by a gang of parang-wielding men is real and something crew on ships in Southeast Asia must contend with.
The list of vessels taken so far in 2015:
January 28th: Sun Birdie
January 28th: Rehobot
February 13th: Lapin
February 20th: Phubai Pattra 1
March 9th: Singa Berlian
March 22nd: Davide Tide II
April 1st: Dongfang Glory
May 2nd: Ocean Energy
May 15th: Oriental Glory
June 4th: Orkim Victory
June 4th: KM Mutiara (Unconfirmed)
June 11th: Orkim Harmony