With about a third of global container trade and around a quarter of global oil trade transiting through them each year, the straits of Malacca and Singapore are some of the busiest sea lanes in the world. A profitable target for criminals, one may think.

But while robbery incidents in these strategic waterways have been on the rise, the crimes, although still of concern, remain low in severity, with crews largely unharmed and criminals often getting away empty-handed, Krishnaswamy Natarajan, executive director of the Singapore-based ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC), said in an exclusive interview.

“These are often petty theft incidents of low severity, with the criminals mostly aiming for unsecured items such as ship stores, scrap metal or machinery spares,” said Natarajan, who served as director general of the Indian Coast Guard between 2019 and 2021.