Malacca Strait pirates still plunderous


Japanese-operated ships have been targeted by pirates in Southeast Asia this year, but most of the attacks were foiled, according to recent data compiled by a piracy monitoring center in Singapore and other maritime sources.

The center for the Japan-initiated Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, or ReCAAP, publishes monthly and quarterly details of pirate attacks on its Web site.

Although attacks are down from recent years, danger still lurks in certain parts of the region, as evidenced by the attempts to board Japanese and other vessels.

In one case in April, pirates tried to attack the Japanese-operated chemical tanker Shoko Maru near Karimun Island in Indonesian waters.

Up to six pirates came in two boats, waving steel pipes and knives. Fortunately, the ship master managed to raise the alarm and the pirates, who managed to get into the engine room, fled. No one was injured, but some engine parts were reported missing.

A more dramatic incident involved the Japanese-operated freighter Pacific Discoverer in Lombok, Indonesia, also in April.

The ship was surrounded by four boats and the pirates fired several shots. The crew managed to stave off the pirates by firing parachute flares into the air.

Another case involved the Japanese-operated cargo vessel Grace Casablanca, which was attacked by knife-wielding pirates near Bintulu, Malaysia, in March. The pirates made off with the ship’s stores.

A fourth case involved a Japanese-operated LNG tanker near Karimun, also in April. The LNG carrier had departed Niigata and was heading toward Singapore when pirates boarded near Karimun.

A crew member found four men in the steering room.

One of the intruders was armed with a knife. The master of the tanker raised the alarm, mustered the crew and kept watch on deck. The robbers reportedly fled.

According to ReCAAP, in the first three months of this year, 18 armed robberies targeting ships occurred in Asia, a “significant decline” from the previous couple of years.

“The drop in the overall number of incidents is matched by the general decrease in the number of significant incidents, and the level of violence associated with the incidents,” it said.

Most of the incidents occurred in Indonesian waters, with nine cases in the first quarter of this year.