Piracy and Robbery Against Ships in Asia 2016

Main Messages:

  • A new and disturbing trend of kidnap for ransom emerged in 2016 in the Sulu and Celebes Seas.
  • There was a 35% decrease in the number of overall incidents from 2015, which demonstrates the effectiveness of increased patrols and regional coordination.
  • 2016 also saw a significant decrease in the number of hijacking for cargo theft incidents from 2015, suggesting that traffic transiting the Straits of Malacca and Singapore is now at lower risk.
Total Attacks Piracy Asia
Total Seafarers Affected Asia
Cost of Stolen Goods Asia

Overview Asia

For 2016, Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) has documented 129 incidents of piracy and robbery in Asia. For the purposes of this report, OBP defines the Asia region as spanning the area from the eastern coast of India to the Banda Sea in Indonesia. OBP recorded three outlier incidents in the North China Sea, which are included in the overall dataset, but not in the regional breakdowns.

Mapping of Attacks in Asia

Total Piracy Attacks in Asia

The incidents in the Asia region affected an estimated 2,283 seafarers, a significant decrease compared with 2015. There has been an overall improvement in the piracy and armed robbery situation in Asia in 2016, especially in the number of hijackings for cargo theft. However, an increase in kidnap for ransom incidents in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, and particularly the associated violence perpetrated on seafarers in these attacks, are causing great alarm in these areas.

Total Incidents by Type

Total Incidents by Type in Asia


In 2016, there was a 35% decrease from 2015 in the number of incidents reported in Asia—a significant reduction. The decrease in the number of incidents in 2016 compared to 2015, especially in crime-prone areas, can be attributed to more effective joint coordinated patrols and surveillance by littoral states, information sharing mechanisms employed by regional information bodies, and cooperation between regional authorities, partner organizations, and the shipping community. 1 Robbery and armed robbery continued to be the most prevalent forms of crime against merchant shipping in Asia. Two specific piracy and armed robbery trends from 2016 should be noted: a significant decrease in the number of hijackings for cargo theft and an increase in kidnapping incidents. Approximately 52% of the incidents occurred while at anchor or within anchorages, and 48% occurred while underway.

Total Incidents by Location

Total Incidents by Location in Asia

Of great concern to OBP is the fact that kidnappings increased in 2016, especially in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. In these violent incidents, perpetrators often move hostages to shore, where they can be held for extended periods of time under extreme duress. Captives are subject to frequent abuse and live in fear of being killed by their captors. Some reports indicate that captors may have even used hostages as slave labor. 2

In response to the growing number of seafarers being kidnapped in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have signed a joint document on standard operating procedures for trilateral maritime cooperation to secure the waterways bordered by the countries.  3 In May 2016, the three countries also agreed to coordinated patrols to improve the maritime security situation. 4

In 2016, only three vessels were hijacked for cargo theft, compared to 12 in 2015. The decrease is partly attributed to a number of factors including the reduction in financial rewards from the resale of stolen petroleum products and better patrols by regional navies and local law enforcement.

Incidents by Type and Month

Incidents by Type and Month in Asia

Incidents by Vessel Type

Incidents by Vessel Asia

Incident Types


Suspicious Activity

Incidents of suspicious activity include incidents where a vessel reports a close encounter with or direct approach from another vessel which feels threatening in nature. The threat is determined by the vessel master due to the actions of the approaching vessel or from the observation of weapons and boarding equipment, although the approaching vessel may not have actually taken any overtly hostile action. This type of incident generally poses little threat to the crew, but can require crew to muster in order to prevent a potential attack.

Dataset & Methodology

To calculate the number of incidents which occurred in the Asia region in 2016, OBP aggregated incident reports from multiple sources, including the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), and the Information Fusion Centre (IFC), to create a complete outlook. The dataset excludes incidents where vessels were berthed in port and incidents where the perpetrators did not require a boat to approach the victim vessel. The vast majority of incidents counted and discussed within this report were categorized as robberies against ships, not piracy, as they occurred within territorial waters.

Asia Breakdown by Sub-Region

As highlighted in previous OBP reports, a singular model of piracy and robbery against ships in Asia does not exist, posing distinctive challenges for the respective subregions. OBP has categorized incidents in Asia into subregions, including boundaries defined by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), to encompass a wider and more comprehensive understanding of the nuances of the models of piracy and armed robbery at sea.

Map of Asia Sub-Regions

Map of Asia Sub-Regions


The Asia subregions include:

Region 1: The Java Sea to the Banda Sea, including the Makassar Strait

Region 2: The Malacca and Singapore Straits, including the Andaman Sea and approaches to the Malacca Strait

Region 3: Eastern South Asia, including the Bay of Bengal

Region 4: The South China Sea, including the Gulf of Tonkin

Region 5: The Sulu and Celebes Seas


Region 1: The Java Sea to the Banda Sea, including the Makassar Strait

In 2016, 28 incidents occurred in the region spanning the Java and Banda Seas, including the Makassar Strait. Three of these incidents were armed robberies, 15 were robberies, and eight incidents were classified as failed boardings or failed attacks. One outlier includes an incident of hijacking for cargo theft. The majority of incidents occurred at anchorages, particularly at Tanjung Priok, Panjang, Samarinda, Balikpapan, Muara Berau, and Taboneo anchorages. Crewmembers in seven separate incidents were able to muster and implement anti-piracy tactics, including the use of water cannons, in order to deter boarding of a vessel.

Robbery in Region1

With the exception of two incidents, the majority of robberies occurred within anchorage areas under cover of darkness. In all instances, the theft was of ship stores or property. In four instances, robbers escaped with stolen goods following the mustering of crew.

Hijacking for Cargo Theft in Region 1

Hijacking for cargo theft was not a common occurrence in Region 1 in 2016; however, there was one incident. On 7 May, nine perpetrators boarded Hai Soon 12, a tanker carrying 4,000 metric tons of Marine Gas Oil (MGO) in the Java Sea. The tanker was intercepted after regional authorities, including ReCAAP ISC, the IFC, and the Indonesian navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL), received the information. The TNI-AL intercepted and boarded the vessel and arrested all nine perpetrators, leaving the crew unharmed. The successful arrest of the perpetrators is attributed to ship’s company reporting the incident promptly, ReCAAP ISC and IFC sharing information with regional authorities, rapid response by the TNI-AL, and cooperation among the littoral states. 5


Regional 1: Incident Breakdown

Incident Type Number of Incidents Number of Seafarers Affected
Robbery 15 326
Armed Robbery 3 63
Failed Boarding/Failed Attack 8 163
Hijack for Cargo Theft 1 20
Suspicious Activity 1 24
Total 28 596

Region 1: Attacks at Anchorage vs at Sea

Location Incidents
Anchored/Anchorage 22
Steaming/Underway/Open Water 6
Total 28


Region 2: The Malacca and Singapore Straits, including the Andaman Sea and approaches to the Malacca Strait

Six incidents in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS) region involved vessels underway. The remaining 20 incidents occurred at anchorages, specifically at Dumai, Batam, Belawan, West Jurong, and Kabil, the majority of which are located in Indonesian territorial waters. It is significant to note that most of the incidents occurred outside of the recognized transit corridor of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, where OBP recorded only three incidents for 2016. The remaining 23 incidents occurred within anchorages located along the Straits or while steaming north of Indonesia. Three types of piracy and armed robbery incidents accounted for the total: robbery, armed robbery, and failed boarding/failed attack. Failed attacks and failed boardings made up half of all reported incidents. Most of the robbery incidents involved the theft of ship stores, spare parts, or property.

Overall, it is noteworthy that the number of incidents in the SOMS region has significantly decreased compared to 2015. While theft from anchored vessels in ports and anchorages continues to be a problem, the overall situation in the SOMS has improved significantly: hijacking for cargo theft, which was a prominent issue in 2014 and 2015, substantially decreased in 2016. OBP credits regional cooperation, among several other factors, for the sharp decline in hijacking for cargo theft in the area. States in the region have demonstrated the ability to rapidly address the situation.

Region 2 Incident Breakdown

Incident Type Number of Incidents Number of Seafarers Affected
Robbery 7 151
Armed Robbery 6 126
Failed Boarding/Failed Attack 13 275
Total 26 552


Region 2: Attacks at Anchorage vs Sea

Incident Location Vessel Type Number of Incidents
Anchored/Anchorage Barge & Tug 1
Anchored/Anchorage Tug 1
Anchored/Anchorage Bulk Carrier 4
Anchored/Anchorage Tanker 8
Anchored/Anchorage Dredger 2
Anchored/Anchorage Heavy Lift Carrier 1
Anchored/Anchorage Heavy Load Carrier 1
Anchored/Anchorage Offshore Supply Vessel 1
Anchored/Anchorage Research Vessel 1
Steaming/Underway/Open Water Barge & Tug 5
Steaming/Underway/Open Water Tug 1
Total N/A 26

Region 2: Incidents by Locations

Region 2: Incidents by Location


Region 3: Eastern South Asia, including the Bay of Bengal

Within Region 3 as defined for this report, OBP counted three incidents. Two incidents of robbery occurred at Visakhapatnam anchorage and one incident of suspicious activity occurred at Kakinada anchorage on the eastern coast of India.

Region 3: Incident Breakdown

Incident Type Number of Incidents Number of Seafarers Affected
Robbery 2 49
Suspicious Activity 1 22
Total 3 71


Region 3: Attacks at Anchorage vs at Sea

Location Incidents
Anchored/Anchorage 3
Steaming/Underway/Open Water 0
Total 3



OBP did not include attacks off the coast of Bangladesh or attacks occurring in riverine areas in the overall State of Piracy statistics. Maritime crime in the territorial waters of Bangladesh is distinctly different from piracy and armed robbery at sea in other parts of Asia. Incident reports largely came from media sources and OBP only included those that were most credible based on our research methodology.

The majority of attacks in 2016 resulted in kidnap for ransom incidents, typically targeting local fishers. Ransom demands reportedly ranged from $375 to $2,400. Given that the average per capita annual income in Bangladesh is $1,211, 6 these ransoms impose a sizeable burden on local families. Hostages are typically held onshore.

In 2016, there were 24 reported incidents in Bangladesh against 16 fishing vessels, two container ships, one general cargo vessel, one bulk carrier, one passenger vessel, and one of unknown type. Of the 24 reported attacks, 16 involved abduction of crewmembers; six incidents were robberies. The attacks impacted more than 162 fishers, while over 70 were injured during the reported incidents. The attacks continue to be violent, with varying motives, as in previous years.

OBP learned of two incidents in which Bangladeshi forces arrested perpetrators—one regarding an unknown fishing vessel in April and one related to the Sea Star in September 2016. No additional information regarding prosecution of these perpetrators—or any other similar arrests and prosecutions—was discovered in the publishing of this report.


Region 4: The South China Sea, including the Gulf of Tonkin

A total of 23 incidents occurred in Region 4. Nine of these incidents were robberies, and four others were armed robberies. Failed boardings and failed attacks constituted almost one-third of incidents. Significantly, there were only two incidents of hijacking for cargo theft, compared to five incidents recorded in the 2015 State of Piracy report. Incidents at anchorage amounted to the majority of the total, which included the Hon Gai anchorage in the Gulf of Tonkin and the Vung Tau anchorage near the South China Sea.


Region 4: Incident Breakdown

Incident Type Number of Incidents Number of Seafarers Affected
Robbery 9 164
Armed Robbery 4 81
Failed Boarding/Failed Attack 7 126
Hijack for Cargo Theft 2 20
Kidnapping 1 27
Total 23 418


Region 4: Attacks at Anchorage vs at Sea

Location Incidents
Anchored/Anchorage 13
Steaming/Underway/Open Water 10
Total 23


Hijacking for Cargo Theft in Region 4

In 2016, two incidents of hijacking for cargo theft occurred in the South China Sea; one in June and one in October. While hijacking for cargo theft significantly decreased in 2016 in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, the two incidents in the South China Sea were reported between the Malay Peninsula and Borneo.

The first incident involved a Malaysian-flagged tug, Ever Prosper, which was towing the barge Ever Dignity, off Sarawak, Malaysia, on 3 June. The barge was loaded with crude palm kernel oil (CPKO). The crew informed ReCAAP ISC that perpetrators had boarded the vessel and were proceeding to transfer the CPKO to their own vessel. Information was relayed to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), which deployed two patrol vessels to the area. On 4 June, the crew were reported as safe, although one individual suffered an injury from the attack. 7

A second incident of hijacking for cargo theft occurred on 25 October, 60 nm north of Sarawak, Malaysia. The tug Ever Ocean Silk was towing a barge, Ever Giant, which was carrying palm oil. Perpetrators armed with long knives (parangs) boarded the tug and tied the 10 crewmembers in a cabin. The incident was reported by the owner of the tug to the MMEA, which dispatched three vessels. It was reported that the perpetrators siphoned roughly 2,500 metric tons of palm oil and stole crew belongings. 8


Region 5: The Sulu and Celebes Seas

In Region 5, 38 incidents were reported in 2016; 21 of these were successful kidnappings. Eight incidents were classified as suspicious activity. As opposed to the pattern in other subregions, 36 out of 38 attacks took place while the respective vessels were underway. While pirates operating in the Sulu and Celebes Seas targeted smaller vessels at the beginning of the year, in October they began attacking larger vessels, presenting a threat to both international and regional traffic.


Region 5: Incident Breakdown

Incident Type Number of Incidents Number of Seafarers Affected
Robbery 1 25
Armed Robbery 4 24
Failed Boarding/Failed Attack 4 59
Kidnapping 21 158
Suspicious Activity 8 176
Total 38 442


Region 5: Attacks at Anchorage vs at Sea

Location Incidents
Anchored/Anchorage 1
Steaming/Underway/Open Water 37
Total 38


Region 5: Incidents by Month and Vessel Size

Region 5: Incidents by Month and Vessel Size

Kidnapping in Region 5

OBP noted with concern the rising number of successful and attempted kidnappings in the Sulu and Celebes Seas region. Kidnapping in the Sulu and Celebes Seas is an incredibly violent and traumatic experience for seafarers. After being forcefully removed from a ship, hostages are taken ashore, where they face increased danger from perpetrators and friendly fire from rescue attempts. Often, hostages are forced to work in slave-like conditions for the pirates 9, under daily threat of being shot or beheaded. 10Seafarers also may succumb to illnesses and malnutrition due to a lack of food, water, and medical care. In addition to the immediate abuse faced by hostages, a study which assessed the long-term effects of piracy on seafarers in other regions indicates lasting impacts on hostages, including, in some severe cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 11

Tayudin Anjut and Abdul Rahim Summas, who were kidnapped in July 2016 from the tug Serudong 3 and rescued in March 2017, have problems related to their vision and ability to walk due to their captivity. They were forced to cook for their captors but were only allowed to eat leftover scraps. They often resorted to drinking seawater to try to stay hydrated. When they were not working for the pirates, the two were tied up and blindfolded. 12


Experiences of Hostages

“They have been very stressed out. They were moved from one place to another, sometimes sleeping in forests, different houses, eating just dried fish and drinking water from brooks.” 13



On 7 November 2016, armed forces of the Western Mindanao command found the yacht Rockall drifting near Pangutaran, Sulu. The naked remains of Sabine Merz, who had been shot and killed, were found onboard. The perpetrators had boarded the yacht while Merz and her husband, Jurgen Kantner, were sailing near Sabah. After killing Merz, the attackers kidnapped Kantner and brought him to the jungles of the southern Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf Group demanded a $600,000 ransom for his release.

Another kidnapping incident involved the local fishing vessel Ramona 2. Four Filipino crewmembers were kidnapped while fishing off Sulu on 20 December. Their boat was found empty by another crew, while the radio communication and global positioning system of the vessel had been stolen. 14As of the writing of this report, the whereabouts of three crewmembers has not been confirmed. One crewmember was killed in April 2017, on the suspicious that he was ill and impeded the movement of his captors to evade military forces in the Philippines. 15

On 20 October, the cargo vessel Dongbang Giant 2 was boarded by six armed perpetrators who kidnapped the ship’s South Korean captain and a Filipino crewmember 7.7 nm from Sibutu Island, Philippines. The two men were released after three months in captivity, where they endured hunger and beatings from their captors. 16



Human Cost Asia

Seafarers Affected by Incident Type

Seafarers Affected by Incident Type Asia

Injuries and Deaths

“A precious life has been needlessly lost...There must be a stop to this killing of the innocent and the helpless.”

Jesus Dureza, adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, on the killing of Jurgen Kantner 17

In 2016, 6% of incidents involved injuries, 25% of incidents involved threats to the crew, and 2% of incidents led to the death of seafarers. The injuries sustained by 12 seafarers varied in intensity, ranging from beatings to gunshot wounds. Two of the six deaths were German national Jurgen Kantner and his partner, Sabine Merz, from the yacht Rockall. Merz was killed during the initial attack, while Kantner was beheaded in 2017 after 113 days in captivity on land. Noel Esconde, one of four seafarers taken hostage from the fishing vessel Ramona 2 in late 2016, was killed in 2017 after 118 days in captivity. The three other deaths occurred on a fishing vessel; three perpetrators were killed during a kidnapping incident in Semporna waters on 8 December by ESSCOM, Malaysia’s Eastern Sabah Security Command. Two perpetrators are missing from that incident. 18


Injuries and Deaths

Violence Type Number of Incidents Number of Seafarers Affected
Killed 3 6
Kidnapped 23 68
Injury 8 12
Threatened 33 146
Total 67 232


Perpetrators were armed in 44% of the attacks, amounting to 57 incidents, while perpetrators were unarmed in the majority of reported incidents (approximately 56%). Overall, 852 seafarers were exposed to attacks in which the perpetrators were armed.

Armed vs Unarmed Incidents

Armed vs Unarmed Incidents Asia

Crew Held Hostage/Forcible Detention

Overall, 67 seafarers and fishers were taken hostage in 2016. Of the 22 kidnapping incidents, 21 occurred in the Sulu and Celebes Seas and one occurred in the South China Sea, exposing 185 seafarers to kidnapping incidents. Three hostages were detained for one day; 48 were held for longer than one day. Fifteen hostages taken in 2016 have yet to be confirmed as released as of the writing of this report. The average length of captivity for hostages taken in 2016 was 79 days; the longest duration of captivity was 251 days and the shortest was just over a day.

Nineteen incidents involved weapons. A total of 76 seafarers were threatened during kidnapping incidents, including one incident where attackers boarded a tug after firing at the vessel. In another incident, two crewmembers were wounded after attackers fired at the cabin doors.

Successful Kidnappings by Month

Successful Kidnappings by Month Asia

Hostages Kept for One Day

One incident in which hostages were kept for one day or less occurred in 2016. Three hostages were kidnapped from their fishing vessel in the Sulu Sea but were released unhurt the following day.

Temporary Detention: Held Hostage During Attack

In 2016, there were 11 incidents of temporary detention, which affected 216 crewmembers. Incidents of temporary detention occurred when perpetrators boarded vessels and tied up crewmembers in order to hijack or rob a vessel. Five incidents occurred while at anchor, and the remaining six incidents while the vessel was underway. Nine of the 11 incidents involved instances of minor robbery. In total, 47 crewmembers were threatened and two were subjected to beatings and detention at gunpoint, underlining the traumatic nature of temporary detention on crewmembers. In six incidents, crewmembers were tied up during the detention.

Hostages Held for More Than One Day

49 seafarers were held hostage for more than one day in 2016, with totals ranging between two and 173 days. Three people were shot during two separate kidnapping incidents from MV Royal 16 and Henry/Christy, while two were killed after three and four months in captivity, respectively.

Hostages Not Confirmed as Released

As of the publication of this report, the release of 15 hostages taken in 2016 has not been confirmed.


Of the 129 incidents OBP identified in 2016, the known nationalities of 915 seafarers affected have been reported to the IMB. Most seafarers attacked came from five countries: the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Ukraine, and China. Of the seafarers with known nationalities, 835 are nationals of Asian countries. By calculating the average number of crewmembers per vessel-type for incidents where the exact number of crewmembers is unavailable, OBP calculated that 2,283 seafarers were affected by piracy and armed robbery in the sub-regions of Asia in 2016.

Nationality of Seafarers Exposed to Incidents

Nationality of Seafarers Exposed to Incidents Asia

Note: this graphic represents 915 of the 1,347 seafarers exposed to piracy and armed robbery at sea in 2016. The nationalities of the other 432 are unverified. 19



Economic Cost Asia

As with previous State of Piracy reports, Oceans Beyond Piracy did not calculate a total economic cost for piracy and armed robbery in Asia. While certain figures are included because they could be ascertained, some figures could not be calculated or reasonably estimated due to information constraints.

Efforts to Deter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships at Sea

The response by regional actors to piracy and armed robbery at sea in Asia has had a significant impact on the number of incidents. Recent efforts to prevent piracy and armed robbery at sea include increased commitment to counter-piracy patrols, expanded operations of rapid-response teams, the development of guidance for the industry, and the arrest and prosecution of pirates.

Naval and Maritime Law Enforcement Response

The vast majority of incidents in Asia take place in archipelagic and territorial waters; therefore, the authority to provide maritime law enforcement falls to those states. However, as counter-piracy patrols and incident response are only part of the duties of regional naval and law enforcement agencies, the aggregate cost of dedicated counter-piracy patrols is difficult to isolate.

STAR and Quick Response Teams

The Special Task and Rescue (STAR) team and the Western Fleet Quick Response Team, which were created in 2015 by Malaysia and Indonesia respectively, have succeeded in their mission of reducing piracy and armed robbery at sea in the SOMS region; OBP observed a marked decrease in hijacking for cargo theft in 2016. While the STAR teams remain focused on protecting the SOMS region, the geographical scope of the Quick Response Teams has expanded.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency

In 2016, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) expanded its scope of operations and increased its capacity-building efforts off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia. Three new radar systems were established in western Sabah in an effort to improve maritime security off the coast. 20 The agency plans to build more radar systems between Kudat and Sandakan to address the wider array of maritime crime in the Sulu Sea. 21

In addition to the STAR teams, the MMEA operates a number of naval and aerial assets tasked with preventing maritime crime in Malaysian waters. In total, OBP estimates that the operating cost of naval and aerial assets involved in counter-piracy activities under the MMEA was at least $23 million in 2016. However, this figure only represents the time involved in counter-piracy operations. This figure also excludes capital and maintenance costs related to capacity-building. In perspective, the MMEA’s overall budget for 2016 was $208,785,600. 22

Indonesian Navy

Similar to the MMEA, the Western Fleet Quick Response Teams operating as part of the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) also expanded the scope of their operations in 2016. Quick-response teams have started operating under the Indonesian Eastern Fleet Command headquartered in Surabaya. 23 One notable success of the quick-response teams in 2016 was the apprehension of Vier Harmony, which was initially thought to have been hijacked. It was later found that the vessel was taken by its own crew as a result of internal disputes between the crew and the ship’s owner. Regardless of the motives behind the incident, the ability of the TNI-AL to find and apprehend the vessel demonstrates Indonesia’s capability to respond quickly to incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea.

Coordinated Patrols

Sulu Sea Patrol Initiative

Modeled after the widely successful Malacca Strait Sea Patrols Program (MSSP), the Sulu Sea Patrol Initiative (SSPI) was announced by Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines at a meeting on 14 July 2016.  24 The goal of the initiative is to curb emerging threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Sulu and Celebes Seas by conducting coordinated air and naval patrols as well as increasing intelligence-sharing.  25 Three command posts responsible for facilitating coordination have since been established, and the nations agreed to a “right of hot pursuit,” which allows military vessels to pursue attackers across borders in emergency situations. Additionally, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has reportedly asked China to send coast guard ships to the region to help with the effort. 26 Similarly, Japan, Brunei, and Singapore may become involved in some capacity. The United States has also expressed interest in coordinating with the three original cooperating states. It is worth noting that the Philippines has made significant progress in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf Group, killing many sub-leaders and members in 2016. Bringing other nations into the process could bolster current counter-piracy operations.

Other Coordinated Patrols

In addition to the Sulu Sea Patrol Initiative, many Asian states have enacted agreements for carrying out coordinated patrols. Examples include the Indonesia-Singapore Coordinated Patrol, the Malacca Strait Patrols, and the Malaysia-Indonesia Coordinated Patrols. For more information on these programs please see OBP’s 2015 State of Piracy Report.

Prosecution and Imprisonment

In 2016, at least 23 suspected perpetrators were arrested in Asia. One high-profile case involved Hai Soon 12, an oil tanker hijacked on 8 May 2016. The TNI-AL dispatched two ships to track down the vessel after the attack was reported and apprehended nine suspects who intended to disguise the ship and sell its cargo. 27 Arrests were made in at least five additional cases.


Prosecution and Imprisonments

Arresting State Month (in 2016) Related Incident Number Arrested
Indonesia April Posh Viking 2
Indonesia May Hai Soon 12 9
Indonesia July SBI Thalia 3
Indonesia August Ad Matsu 1
Malaysia December Unknown FV 2
Indonesia December Unknown Tanker 6

MT Orkim Harmony

The eight suspected criminals involved in the 2015 hijacking of MT Orkim Harmony were extradited from Vietnam to Malaysia and formally charged under Sections 395 and 397 of Malaysia’s penal code (armed robbery and gang robbery) at the Kota Tinggi Magistrate’s Court on 27 November 2016.  28 They were convicted and sentenced to 15–18 years in prison. 29 Six of the eight convicted will also be lashed with a cane five times. 30 OBP estimates that prosecution and imprisonment costs related to the hijacking of Orkim Harmony amounted to $10,322 in 2016.

Stolen Ship Stores and Crew Belongings

The majority of incidents in 2016 were robberies targeting ship stores and/or crew belongings. Ship stores and equipment were taken from vessels on 61 separate occasions, representing a loss between $460,000 and $1,600,000. Crew belongings were stolen from vessels on 15 occasions, amounting to approximately $150,000–$280,000 in losses. Compared to 2015, the estimated value of stolen ship stores and equipment increased by 11%. However, the value of stolen crew belongings decreased by 25%.


Cargo Theft

Hijacking vessels in order to steal cargo is a very complex and risky model employed by criminal groups in Asia. These incidents involve the transfer of cargo from one ship to another, which requires more time than the kidnapping of crewmembers from a ship or the theft of crew belongings or ship stores. The stolen cargo is either sold on the black market or disguised as legal product and sold.

In total, the value of cargo stolen in Asia in 2016 was roughly $3,250,000, substantially lower than the $8,000,000 estimated in 2015. Overall, the losses incurred by stolen cargo decreased by about 60% in 2016. In 2016, only three instances of cargo theft were recorded. 31


Cost of Stolen Goods

Item Stolen Cost Estimate (Low) Cost Estimate (High)
Ship Stores and Equipment $457,500 $1,601,250
Personal Effects $145,605 $282,420
Cargo $3,242,818 $3,242,818
Total $3,845,923 $5,126,488

Reporting and Information-Sharing Organizations

Asia is home to robust counter-piracy organizations and information-sharing centers. These include two multinational organizations focused on incident reporting, analysis, and information-sharing with a regional focus: the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Center (ReCAAP ISC), and the Information Fusion Centre (IFC). These organizations provide vital assistance to the maritime industry through incident alerts, provision of intelligence, and operational response. In 2016, ReCAAP ISC accepted voluntary contributions from contracting parties of roughly $1 million.

Vessel Self-Protection and Seafarer Training

Regional law enforcement and naval response both play vital roles in ensuring safety and security at sea for seafarers and ships transiting Asian waters. However, many incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea in the region are opportunistic in nature. The risk of unauthorized boardings can be minimized by vessel self-protection measures, which include increased crew vigilance and vessel hardening.

Since 2009, various guidance related to the deterrence of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea has been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), the IMB, and ReCAAP ISC.  32These guidance documents were incorporated into the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia produced by the ReCAAP ISC in collaboration with the IFC, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and a number of shipping industry associations.

The Regional Guide provides recommendations for vessel hardening, risk analysis, and increased vigilance to help crews counter threats. In particular, the guide recommends a layered approach to vessel self-protection: a primary layer of defense which could include heightened vigilance, razor wire, maneuvering, and speed; a secondary layer such as door and window hardening, gates/grates, and motion sensors/CCTV; and a final, tertiary layer consisting of internal door hardening, a citadel, and communication equipment.


While rerouting is rarely employed by ships in Asia, some shipping companies are directing their vessels to reroute away from the Sulu Sea due to the increased number of kidnapping incidents. The attack on Giang Hai on 19 February 2017 prompted “several shipments of cement and other cargos to be suspended as shippers refused to charter vessels passing through the Sulu Sea...for Polloc Port and other ports in Mindanao.” 33According to some experts, kidnappings in the Sulu Sea have resulted in declining international trade, leading to significant revenue losses. 34 Similarly, Indonesia halted coal shipments to the Philippines for several weeks during 2016 in response to the attacks. Shipments have since resumed, but only vessels over 500 tons are allowed to transit the region. 35


There is no standard methodology to determine fluctuations in rates that underwriters have been charging for war risk, cargo, or kidnap and ransom insurance as a result of piracy or armed robbery at sea in Asia. According to the Joint Cargo Committee’s Global Cargo Watchlist, the risk score of the Malay Peninsula steadily declined from “high” to “elevated” from January to December 2016. 36 Based on this trend and interviews with insurance industry experts, it does not appear that underwriters would increase rates for ship operators based on the regional threat and their calculated risk.

Cost of Captivity: Lost Wages

In addition to the physical and psychological suffering of hostages, they also endure severe financial consequences. While most, if not all, seafarers are presumed to be the primary or sole source of income for their households, they do not always receive pay for their time in captivity. For families onshore in developing nations, this can be economically crippling. Using the mandated minimum wage from the Maritime Labour Convention of $23 per day, the 67 seafarers taken captive in Asia lost approximately $77,000 in expected income after they were kidnapped. In 2016, individual seafarers and their families could expect an average economic deficit of $1,100.00 as a result of kidnapping and captivity.