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Bulker's Master Injured in Armed Robbery in Strait of Malacca

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A crucial global trade route is subject to a rash of petty crime, but the consequences aren’t so petty.

In the maritime region of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, pirate boardings have been a recurrent issue, typically involving minor thefts targeting soft targets like scrap metal from towed barges or spare parts from ships. These incidents generally result in the robbers fleeing when confronted, with relatively few injuries. However, a recent case in the Strait of Malacca marked an alarming departure from this pattern.

Last week, Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) reported a boarding and robbery incident on a Marshall Islands-flagged bulker. The incident occurred at 0430 hours outside Singapore's territorial seas as the vessel was heading east for Singapore. The MPA's Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre directed the ship to anchor off Singapore's western shores, where coast guard officers conducted a search, revealing no missing items. Unfortunately, during the incident, the ship's master sustained an injury, though the nature of the injury was unspecified. The MPA confirmed that the master was in stable condition and had been taken ashore for treatment.

This recent robbery incident is part of a concerning trend in the region, as it was at least the third armed robbery targeting bulk carriers in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore in the same week. The previous incidents involved male robbers armed with knives, resulting in the theft of ship's stores.


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Since the beginning of the year 2023, there have been a total of 62 reported incidents of armed robbery in the Straits. Notably, three hotspots for these incidents are Pulau Karimun, near the eastern entrance of the Strait of Malacca; Pulau Cula, near Phillip Channel at the southernmost corner of the Straits' traffic separation scheme; and Tanjun Tondong, near the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait. The robbers tend to operate at night and show a preference for slow-moving bulk carriers in the eastbound lane, closer to Indonesia.

The ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre has expressed concern over the ongoing incidents and advised ships to exercise increased vigilance when transiting the Straits. Additionally, they have urged littoral states to enhance patrols and enforcement in the area to address this security challenge.