The regional anti-piracy body ReCAAP Information Sharing Center (ISC) warned ships, yachts and fishing boats passing the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah, Malaysia against possible crew abduction activities by the law less armed group Abu Sayyaf.
As per the latest situation report on piracy and armed robbery of ships in Asia for May 2020, the ReCAAP ISC stated that a group of about five Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members armed with assorted firearms was planning to conduct abduction of crew activities in undisclosed areas off Sabah.
It received the information from the Philippine Coast Guard, that the ASG armed with assorted firearms had landed to Omapoy Island, Sipangkot, Sitangkai, Tawi-tawi, and it targets to abduct wealthy businessmen or crew of fishing boats and other slow-moving ships.
“Ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance when transiting the waters off Eastern Sabah and in the Sulu-Celebes Seas,” the report said.
ReCAAP-ISC however announced that no actual incident of crew abduction took place in the month of May. The last incident was reported on January 17 when eight crew members were abducted from a fishing trawler plying off Lahdd, Datu in Sabah, Malaysia.
Malaysian authorities had recovered three of eight abducted crew members, while the rest are still held in captivity.
To avoid such incidents, the ReCAAP had already issued the Guidelines on Abduction of Crew in Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah, a summary of advisory measures for the shipping industry and provides analysis of incidents based on the past records of crew abduction.
In May 2020 alone, a total of 11 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia. Of the 11 incidents, one was a piracy incident and 10 were incidents of armed robbery against ships.
As compared to the 25 total incidents reported between January to May 2019, this year’s records rose to 49 incidents in Asia; of this, 2 piracy incidents and 47 incidents of sea robbery against ships. This is now the highest record of such incidents since 2016.