The offshore region – an area beyond a port and its anchorage – experiencing the most maritime crime in 2023 is the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS).
That’s what Dryad Global Analyst Noah Trowbridge told Rigzone, adding that this narrow maritime region bordering the coasts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore has experienced 58 reported incidents in 2023, “the highest for any offshore region”.
“These incidents typically involve small groups of armed attackers that board vessels under cover of darkness to steal spare parts and crew possessions,” Trowbridge said.
When asked why this region was experiencing the most maritime crime, the Dryad Global analyst noted that there are geographic and economic explanations of maritime crime in the SOMS.
“Firstly, the local geography is ideal for the persistence of maritime crime of this nature,” Trowbridge stated.
“The SOMS are a key passageway for global trade, connecting East Asia with Europe, the Middle East and Africa, amounting to over 100,000 vessels transiting the region yearly. This large volume of potential targets increases the opportunity for attacks,” he added.
“Furthermore, the narrow archipelagic geography of the SOMS allows attackers aboard small fishing boats or speed boats to launch attacks from nearby islands. This means the capability threshold for offshore maritime crime is significantly lower than in other locations such as the Gulf of Guinea, where offshore attacks are more logistically demanding,” he continued.
Trowbridge also stated that the persistence of poor living conditions and the lack of employment opportunities for populations living along the SOMS suggests that maritime crime stands out as a means for individuals to make a living.
“Such poor economic conditions ensure that the intent of potential attackers remains high,” he said.
“As per most maritime security threats, so long as these factors of opportunity, capability, and intent are not effectively addressed, maritime crime will likely persist,” he added.
When asked if oil and gas tankers are affected by maritime crime in this region, Trowbridge highlighted that these types of vessels are not exempt from maritime crime in the SOMS.
“In fact, the lower freeboards of tanker vessels means they are typically more vulnerable to boarding from armed attackers,” he told Rigzone.
“Of the 55 incidents reported by the ReCAAP (Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia) in 2022, 75 percent targeted bulk carriers and oil and gas tankers,” he added.
In an annual report released earlier this year, Dryad Global noted that, in 2022, South East Asia continued to face a number of unique maritime security concerns.
“The Strait of Malacca and Singapore and the Philippines experienced high frequency of low-level maritime crime,” the report stated.
“Geopolitical instability persisted in the South China Sea due to territorial disputes, with China’s assertive actions exacerbating tensions. Additionally, the potential for conflict in the Taiwan Strait threatened commercial maritime activity,” it added.
“Regional governments and international organizations prioritized cooperation and capacity-building to address these challenges, focusing on enhanced patrols, information sharing, and joint exercises,” it continued.
“Efforts were made to promote a rules-based order, freedom of navigation and adherence to international law for stability in the region’s maritime domain,” the report went on to state.
On its site, Dryad Global highlights that roughly a quarter of all oil transported by sea – more than 15 million barrels per day – passes through the Straits of Malacca and notes that several countries in North East Asia, including China and Japan, rely heavily on the oil imports that pass through the area.
Dryad Global is a maritime risk intelligence company. The business publishes a weekly maritime security threat advisory in addition to providing other maritime safety and risk advisory services.
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