SINGAPORE – The year is not over yet, but the number of cargo thefts from boats hauling tow boats in the Singapore Strait has already reached five years high.
Wastes have often been seized, according to a special report Thursday (22 August) by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery in Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Center.
In all, there were 14 incidents of theft and robbery between February and mid-August, compared to just 13 in four years between 2015 and 2018.
The ReCAAP Information Exchange Center said a record nine cases involved theft of scrap metal, with robbery making up the rest.
The report says scrap metal theft is of particular concern as the increase is significant when compared to just 16 incidents in eight years between 2011 and 2018.
The Singapore Strait is a waterway south of Singapore that connects the Malacca Strait with the South China Sea.
The center said it was concerned about the increase "although all 14 incidents were in the nature of Cat 4 (petty theft) because the perpetrators were not armed and the crew was not injured."
They all happened in the western sector of the Singapore Strait.
Eleven of the 14 attack boats were vessels registered in Malaysia, one was registered in Cyprus, the other was Niue, and the country is not known for the last.
Five sailed to Penang, and three headed to Port Clang in Malaysia. Rest information was not available.
The center said that in most of the scrap metal theft, culprits would sail their smaller boats until they were along the coast and transport scrap metal to their craft.
The boat and cargo were moving slowly thanks to the heavy load.
In many cases, the tugboat crew was unaware of the thefts taking place because the boats are usually unmanned.
Three people suspected of being part of the criminal groups involved in the robberies were arrested by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency earlier in August, the center added.
To put the cover on the rise in crime, REHAAP said a crew of tow boats and shores entering the Singapore Strait should be called on its website to find out where and when previous incidents occurred.
They should also be more careful and watch out for suspicious small boats and report suspicious activities to the authorities.
ReCAAP added: "More needs to be done to strengthen regional co-operation and co-ordination between detained states in conducting joint coordinated patrols, surveillance, enforcement, apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators involved."