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

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Singapore, Jul 10 (PTI) The situation in India’s 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.

Comparatively, there were three incidents in the 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 pointed out that all such robberies involved stealing nominal items and in some cases engine spares and scrap metals which are in demand in 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 told PTI on Wednesday at the released Half-Year Report (January–June 2024) on Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships (ARAS) in Asia by the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC).

“The majority of these incidents, 10, happened in Bangladesh ports and anchorages, where perpetrators boarded ships during hours of darkness and stole ship stores,” he said.

In 2023, there was just one incident recorded in Bangladesh ports and anchorages, according to the report.

No incidents were reported in Sri Lankan ports and anchorages in the first six months of this year, added Natarajan, the retired Director General of the Indian Coast Guards.

Sri Lanka is one country where no incident has been reported for several years, he said.

ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) advises ships calling on the ports to exercise enhanced vigilance and report all incidents to the coastal authorities for a timely response by the law enforcement agencies in arresting perpetrators to ensure safe and secure seas for all mariners.

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

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

“Ship crew also need to be more vigilant when their vessels are anchored or berthed,” he underscored.

Natarajan called on coast guards to look out for suspicious small boats loitering around the port areas and take action to prohibit barter trade of ship stores and equipment.

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

“Notwithstanding the lower number of incidents, there has been a higher number of incidents of petty theft reported at some ports and anchorages in Asia,” he said.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, one piracy incident on the high seas was reported. The piracy incident occurred onboard a barge towing a tug boat loaded with steel scrap in the South China Sea.

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

This represents a 16 per cent decline compared to 61 incidents in the first half of 2023.

Fourteen of these incidents of theft on ships took place in Indonesian ports and anchorages from January to June 2024, compared to six incidents in the first half of 2023.

The majority of incidents are generally opportunistic theft committed by perpetrators who are non-confrontational and who adopt a ‘hit-and-run’ approach, said the report.

In most incidents, the criminals board ships that are ill-prepared, have low freeboard and manoeuvre at slow speed in restricted areas of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS). The most commonly stolen items are engine spares. PTI GS GSP GSP

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