Coronavirus: Piracy incidents double across Asia during pandemic
By Lucy Martin BBC News, Singapore
- 17 July 2020
Piracy incidents have doubled across Asia causing “deep concern”, according to a new report.
There were 50 incidents in the region in the first half of the year, compared to 25 in the same period of 2019.
The Singapore Strait, one of the world’s busiest commercial shipping routes, has seen 16 incidents since between January and June.
The rise in piracy has been attributed to the coronavirus downturn.
The half-yearly report was published by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).
It said there had also been an increase in attacks in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and the South China Sea.
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Incidents are classified as piracy if they happen outside the jurisdiction of any state. Everything else is considered armed robbery.
ReCAAP’s executive director Masafumi Kuroki said the spike in cases was worrying.
“‘Small’ crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts,” he said.
Much of piracy and armed robbery in Asia is opportunistic, according to Brandon Prins, a scholar of sea piracy at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
“(Sometimes) the pirates are local fishermen who see piracy as a way to supplement their incomes,” he said. “In other parts of Asia, many are jobless young men who have travelled to Batam [in Indonesia] or other places looking for work.
“Opportunistic piracy is just like armed robbery on shore – if you see something worth taking you might give it a shot.