The number of piracy incidents against ships in Asia decreased by 50 percent to only six incidents in August compared to the same month last year, according to a regional report.
The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) announced on Sunday that a total of 19 incidents were reported in August 2010 and 12 in August 2011.
“A total of six incidents of robberies against ships were reported in Asia in August,” said the agency in its press release.
ReCAAP is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery in Asia.
To date, 18 countries have become contracting parties to ReCAAP in a concerted effort to secure international sea transportation, especially in the Malacca Strait and South China Sea, two of the world’s most vital sea lanes.
The Malacca Strait is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, linking major Asian economies such as India, China, Japan and South Korea.
About 60,000 vessels pass through the strait each year, carrying about one-quarter of the world’s traded goods including oil, Chinese products, and Indonesian coffee.
Defense Ministry spokesman Hartind Asrin welcomed the new numbers, saying improved security in the region arose from enhanced cooperation between countries in and out of the region. The United Kingdom became the most recent contracting member, joining in May.
“We can curb the number of incidents if we really focus our resources to combat the crime. It’s very important that we create a secured lane for international ships passing our territory,” he said.
He said that improvement in security throughout Indonesia’s territories not only increased trust in the country’s ability to fight cross-border crime but also boosted its international image.
ReCAAP said that during August there were no incidents of traditional piracy, which includes taking away boats or ships, and holding crews as hostage for ransom.
Two of the six incidents involved tugboats towing barges in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The modus operandi displayed by the thieves in both incidents appeared to be similar. The assailants, armed with knives, boarded the vessels early in the morning and robbed he crew members.
Three of the incidents involved petty theft off Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta, and off Batam Island, in the Riau Islands province.
In those three incidents, the offenders boarded the vessels and stole items before fleeing.
Despite the improved security in Southeast Asian waters, Indonesia’s Western Fleet Commander, Rear Adm. Saidiman, said that the Riau Islands waters remained vulnerable to piracy.
He said that earlier this month, a pirate boat robbed two ships sailing from Batam to Central Kalimantan.
Saidiman said that his fleet will continue to hunt down the pirates.
“We will identify the pirates and locate them because we must make our territory safe,” he said.
He agreed that number of incidents in the Strait of Malacca, the Singapore Strait and around the Riau Islands has decreased this year.
“However, we must continue to keep our alert level on high as the three areas are still vulnerable to piracy or robberies at sea,” Saidiman said.