Asia Minute: Piracy Surges in Southeast Asia

Jan 1, 2020

2020 began with celebrations around the around the world. And as always, the Asia Pacific was the first region to ring in the New Year. But while fireworks an dparties marked the event — there's also a ton of caution in one area for an unusual reason: pirates.

Pirates are making a bit of a comeback in one of the busiest commercial shipping ares of the world — in Southeast Asia.  An industry group says the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Singapore have experienced a rise in sea piracy in recent months, and a relative surge in 2019.

The group that tracks the incidents include 20 countries, and has the unwieldy name of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

The group says piracy incidents more than tripled in 2019 — from 8 to 30 — a four-year high.

The straits run along the southwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia — stretching beyond Singapore, which is the top regional center for refueling ships.

On Christmas Day, half a dozen people boarded an oil tanker heading for Singapore, but fled in a small boat after the ship's chief engineer spotted them and set off an alarm shortly after midnight.

The group monitoring such incidents says there were half a dozen in the last weeks of 2019.

The confrontations vary — with some focusing on theft of items from crew members, and others stealing engine parts, generators, and other equipment.

The group also says that because there have been no arrests following the latest piracy, there is "a possibility of further incidents in the Singapore Strait."