Two armed robberies reported at Indian ports and anchorages in first half of 2024

Singapore: The situation at Indian ports and anchorages has remained relatively stable, with two incidents of armed robbery against ships reported from January to June 2024, a regional maritime agency said on Wednesday.

By comparison, there were three incidents at Indian ports and anchorages last year, said Krishnaswamy Natarajan, executive director of the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

He stressed that all these thefts involved the theft of valuables and, in some cases, engine spare parts and scrap metal, which are in high demand on the “black market.”

“A total of 12 incidents of armed robbery against ships took place in the Indian Ocean region from January to June 2024,” he said. PTI Wednesday, during the release of the biannual report (January-June 2024) on piracy and armed robbery against ships (ARAS) in Asia by the ReCAAP Information Sharing Center (ISC).

“The majority of these incidents, 10, occurred in Bangladeshi ports and anchorages, where the perpetrators boarded ships during the hours of darkness and stole the ships’ stores,” he said.

In 2023, only one incident was recorded in Bangladesh’s ports and anchorages, the report said.

No incidents were reported from Sri Lankan ports and anchorages in the first six months of this year, added Natarajan, retired director general of the Indian Coast Guard.

Sri Lanka is one of the countries where no incidents have been reported for several years, he said.

The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) advises vessels calling at ports to exercise increased vigilance and report all incidents to coastal authorities so that law enforcement can respond swiftly to apprehend the perpetrators in order to ensure safe and secure seas for all seafarers.

Overall, the situation of piracy and maritime robbery in Asia has improved in the first half of 2024, but port authorities need to more strictly implement the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.

“There is a need for port authorities to identify gaps in security measures and implement the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code more strictly,” Natarajan said.

“Ship crews must also be more vigilant when their vessels are anchored or moored,” he stressed.

Natarajan called on the coast guard to keep a watch on suspicious small boats loitering around port areas and take steps to ban bartering of provisions and ship equipment.

He commended littoral states for strengthening law enforcement and making arrests, as these efforts contributed to a 50 per cent reduction in the number of incidents in the first half of 2024.

“Despite the reduced number of incidents, a higher number of petty theft incidents have been reported at some ports and anchorages in Asia,” he said.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, a high-seas piracy incident was reported. The incident occurred aboard a barge towing a tugboat loaded with scrap steel in the South China Sea.

According to the report, 50 additional incidents of armed robbery against ships (in internal waters, territorial seas and archipelagic waters under the jurisdiction of coastal States) were reported to ReCAAP ISC during the first half of 2024.

This represents a 16% decrease from the 61 incidents that occurred in the first half of 2023.

Fourteen of these ship theft incidents occurred in Indonesian ports and anchorages from January to June 2024, compared to six incidents in the first half of 2023.

The majority of incidents tend to be opportunistic thefts by perpetrators who do not seek confrontation and adopt a “hit-and-run” approach, the report said.

In most cases, the criminals board poorly prepared vessels with low freeboards and operating at low speeds in the restricted areas of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). The most commonly stolen items are engine spare parts.

Published July 10, 2024, 11:06 a.m. IST