Tuesday, September 22, 2009

South China Sea new base for pirates’ operations

Increased naval patrols in the Malacca Straits have forced pirates in Asia to move their operations to the South China Sea, where the number of attacks on ships is at a five-year high, an official said yesterday.

Regional Cooperation Agree-ment on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP)’s Amy Fang said that at least 10 ships had been attacked in the area so far this year, the latest on Saturday when six pirates boarded a Singapore-registered liquefied petroleum gas tanker.

The attackers assaulted the duty officer and robbed the ship’s crew, she said.

Fang said it was “worrying” that 10 attacks had taken place with more than three months still to go this year, compared to nine attacks in the whole of 2005.

“The pirates seem to have heavier weapons than before, and are attacking ships rather than just threatening the crew,” she said.

The Singapore-based ReCAAP is an information-sharing group sponsored by 17 countries in the region to fight piracy.

She said the increased piracy in the South China Sea seemed to be the result of greater security in Malacca Straits, which was once one of the most pirate-infested sea lanes in the world.

“But the waterway is virtually free of the problem now, thanks to joint patrolling and intelligence sharing by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

“Only two pirate attacks were reported in the Malacca Straits in 2008 and one hijacking this year, compared to seven attacks in 2007.

According to ReCAAP, a total of 38 ships were attacked in Asia in the first six months of the year, of which eight were hijacked while the remaining were robbed on high seas.

Of the eight hijackings, seven were in South China Sea.

Source: StarOnline

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