The Information Sharing Centre (ISC) of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reported a 25% decrease in incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea in Asia between 2017 and 2018. According to the data collected in the 2018 ReCAAP ISC Annual Report, the total number of incidents reached 76 – including 62 actual incidents and 14 attempted ones. The geographical scope of the report covers three Asian sub-regions: North Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia, with South-East Asia reporting a higher number of incidents. Of the overall number of incidents, only 5% accounts for piracy attacks thus demonstrating a general decrease of the phenomenon in Asia in 2018. According to the report, 2018 has been the year with the lowest number of piracy attacks since 2009, with incidents reported only in the South China Sea. Indeed, most of the incidents in this area are generally related to armed robbery against ships (95% of attacks) rather than piracy.
In some countries, attacks have drastically decreased over the years. In Indonesia for instance, the numbers of incidents lowered from 42 in 2014 to 21 in 2018. This decline can be a consequence of the improvement of the security at some ports and anchorages, and the successful arrests of piracy/armed robbery perpetrators in Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Philippines and Malaysia.
Despite the lower reported number of attacks, the abduction of crew members remains a matter of concern, especially in the Sulu-Celebes Seas, the Philippines and the waters off Eastern Sabah, Malaysia, where kidnapping for ransom is primarily conducted by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. For Asian coastal states, the burden of maritime insecurity calls for a sharpened monitoring of national waters. Enhancing the naval capabilities of these countries is paramount to ensure the decline piracy and armed robbery at sea and a further improvement of water security and maritime safety.