News: Singapore deploys new maritime security vessels as rise reported in armed robbery attacks in Asia during 2020

News & Insights 3 March 2021


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The latest annual report from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) was recently published.

The latest annual report from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) was recently published. It notes that there were a total of 97 incidents (comprising 95 actual incidents and two attempted incidents) of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia in 2020. This accounted for a 17% increase in the total number of incidents, and a 32% increase in actual incidents reported in 2020 compared to 2019. The report goes onto say that there was an increase in incidents in the past year in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, South China Sea and Singapore Straits. The report highlights an increase in the number of incidents on board ships while underway in the Singapore Strait in 2020 with 34 incidents, compared to 31 incidents in 2019.

ReCAAP recommends ship masters and crew exercise vigilance and maintain constant lookout for suspicious boats in the vicinity. They also advise reporting all incidents immediately to the nearest coastal State as well as implementing preventive measures recommended in the previously published Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.

The rise in the number of incidents over the past few years has seemingly prompted the Singapore government to take action. The Ministry of Defence has previously acknowledged that its maritime security capability, including its security vessels, play an important part in Singapore’s ability to deal with attacks (such as those reported by the ReCAAP report). Its commitment to combatting the rise in attacks was demonstrated in early 2020 when it announced its intention of a restructure to its maritime security arrangements and in January 2021 when it launched its new maritime and security response flotilla. This is said to include four sentinel class maritime security and response vessels and two maritime security and response tugboats. The former include an array of technical equipment including a ballistics protection system and a visual and audio warning system.They will also include side fenders to allow swift access to vessels suspected of being involved in attacks. Whilst some of the vessels are already in operation, the remainder will be ready in the coming months. In line with other international maritime security agencies, the vessels operating as part of the flotilla will bear red stripes on their bow.

By 2026, the intention of the Ministry of Defence is to operate new purpose-built vessels. Though these ships are still in early stages of concept design, they are expected to operate at sea for up to a few weeks and are to be designed for minimal manning with flexible capabilities. The Republic of Singapore Navy has also announced that autonomous unmanned vessels are currently undergoing sea trials and could be deployed by the end of the year for security patrols and missions. Each vessel is said to be equipped with various security features and will be operated by a limited number of shore based crew.

Category: Maritime Security

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