Over Half of World Piracy Attacks Now in ASEAN

A new report has some troubling numbers for the region on this score.

Over Half of World Piracy Attacks Now in ASEAN
Credit: US Navy Photo

Southeast Asia accounts for over half of the world’s piracy and armed robbery incidents in 2015, according to a report released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The IMB’s figures indicate that Southeast Asia accounted for 55 percent of the world’s 54 piracy and armed robbery incidents since the start of 2015. That means that on average a small coastal tanker is hijacked by pirates in Southeast Asia every two weeks. The 30 incidents that have happened in Southeast Asia over the past three months dwarf the figures from other regions, with Africa having 11 incidents and East Asia seeing just eight.

The numbers are another indication that Southeast Asia has reemerged as the hotspot for global piracy. The region is a logical target–it is home to vital shipping lanes through which about half of world trade and a third of the world’s oil supply pass–and littoral states have enhanced regional cooperation in recent years to address piracy concerns. Yet,as The Diplomat previously reported, the IMB 2014’s data indicated that incidents have nevertheless been on the rise, with 141 piracy incidents in 2014, up from 126 in 2014. In contrast, the IMB’s recent report said zero incidents occurred in the notorious waters off Somalia in the first quarter of 2015, in part due to additional security and caution.

“The frequency of these hijackings in South East Asia is an increasing cause for concern. There’s a risk that the attacks and violence could increase if left unabated,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, which has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.

The group said that while an overwhelming majority of these incidents are “low-level, opportunistic thefts,” the attackers are usually armed with knives, machetes, or guns.

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The country with the highest number of attacks, the IMB says, is Indonesia, which accounted for almost 40% of 2015 recorded incidents. Vietnam has also seen an increase in armed robbery incidents, with eight reports in the past three months and more thieves breaking into ships at anchor around Hai Phong and Vung Tao.

To respond to these worrying numbers, the IMB called for “a stronger, coordinated regional response to clamp down on piracy in Southeast Asian waters.”

Worldwide, the group also noted that after a steady drop in global piracy over the past few years, attacks had risen 10% in the first quarter of 2015 relative to the same period in 2014, with pirates taking 140 hostages – three times as many during the corresponding quarter last year.