Tug operators were reminded of the risks of piracy and its threats to towage operations in a key shipping route with renewed attacks
Pirates attacked tugboat Kim Hock Tug 9 and barge LKH 2882 twice in five hours on 18 January in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme in the Singapore Strait.
This unit was enroute from Vietnam to Singapore with scrap metal cargo when it was attacked at 1129 hrs north of Pulau Batam, Indonesia. The incident was broken up when another tug, Kim Hock Virgo approached, forcing the perpetrators to flee in two or three sampans.
There were no casualties, but some scrap metal was stolen. The master of Kim Hock Tug 9 reported the incident to Singapore’s Vessel Traffic Information System.
Kim Hock Tug 9 and barge LKH 2882 were attacked a second time on 18 January, south of Sentosa, Singapore by a gang of seven pirates at 1551 hrs.
Two Singapore Police Coast Guard craft were dispatched to intercept, forcing the perpetrators to flee in their sampans. Again, there were no injuries to crew, but several more pieces of scrap metal were stolen.
Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP)’s information sharing centre (ISC) issued an incident alert over the weekend, warning tug and barge operators of the threat to seafarers, assets and cargo from piracy attacks in the Singapore Strait.
These were the second and third attacks in the strait after tanker British Mariner was attacked on 8 January 2020.
ReCAAP ISC is concerned over the continued occurrence of incidents involving tugs, barges and ships in the Singapore Strait. There were 31 incidents reported in the Singapore Strait in 2019.
ReCAAP ISC has advised ship and tug operators to “exercise utmost vigilance, adopt extra precautionary measures and report all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal state”.
It also recommends law enforcement agencies of littoral states to increase surveillance, patrols and enhance co-operation and co-ordination among them in order to respond promptly to incidents.
These attacks on Kim Hock Tug 9 and LKH 2882 demonstrate piracy on tugs and barges continues to be a threat in 2020 after a swell of attacks in 2019.
In August, ReCAAP ISC produced a specific alert to highlight the treat of piracy attacks on tugs and barges in Singapore Strait after a surge in incidents.
By then, there had been 14 attacks so far that year including nine involving the theft of scrap metal from barges, compared with just two in the whole of 2018.