News 02 Sep, 2015

Piracy - Attacks in the Singapore Strait

On 21 and 22 August 2015, several eastbound vessels within the Singapore Strait Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) were attacked. Three were targeted during the night of the 20/21 August and another three the following night. The attacks occurred between The Brothers (Pulau Iyu Besar and Pulau Iyu Kecil) and the vicinity of Buffalo Rock, south of the Jong Fairway. It is believed that the same craft may have been responsible for all six incidents.

Further details can be found in the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Incident Alert 07/2015.

Although six attacks on larger vessels in quick succession is unusual, numerous other occurrences are reported to have taken place between The Brothers and Horsburgh Lighthouse in 2015. Many of the incidents involved small, eastbound vessels between The Brothers and Helen Mar Reef at the western end of the Singapore Strait.

Typically the attackers have tried to board vessels from a small, fast boat during the hours of darkness at a time when bridge personnel are preoccupied with keeping a safe navigational watch whilst transiting the busy TSS. The attackers will generally approach from astern with the aim of looting the accommodation and stealing cash and valuables.

In some of the most recent incidents the attackers were reportedly armed with knives. However, on each occasion they left as soon as they were seen by the crew.

Vessels transiting the Singapore Strait should be alert to the possibility of piracy attacks. In order to reduce the likelihood of being targeted, the following measures may be considered:

  • Brief the crew and agree an action plan beforehand.
  • Implement Security Level 2.
  • Post additional lookouts on the bridge and keep a close visual and radar watch for small, fast craft acting suspiciously.
  • Use an Aldis lamp or searchlight to scan the waters around the vessel periodically and to illuminate any suspect craft.
  • Place additional lights over the side to illuminate the stern and quarter areas.
  • Where manning levels permit, post additional lookouts around the stern equipped with radios should they need to alert the bridge.
  • Lock access doors and ports to the accommodation, bridge, engine room, cargo holds and external compartments, ensuring that any access that may be needed in an emergency can be opened easily and quickly from the inside.
  • Keep pilot and accommodation ladders at deck level when not in use.
  • Rig fire hoses ready to spray water over the stern and quarters to discourage an attack.
  • If it is suspected that a small craft in the vicinity may be about to attack the vessel:
    1. Switch on the accommodation lights and deck lights, making sure that any lights used for this purpose do not interfere with the night vision of the bridge watchkeepers or obscure the vessel’s navigation lights.
    2. Turn on the fire hoses if not running already.
    3. Sound the general alarm to muster the crew.
    4. Notify the local authorities by VHF radio without delay.

If the attackers see that they have been spotted, experience has shown that they may back off and seek a softer target elsewhere.

Members requiring further guidance are advised to contact the Loss Prevention department.