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Thefts and robberies in the Philippines

According to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC), a total of 11 incidents of armed robbery against ships has been reported in the Philippines so far in 2021. Nine of the 11 incidents occurred at Manila Anchorage Areas. All nine took place during the hours of darkness, and seven of the nine involved a container vessel.

Due to the fact that the Port of Manila has been nominated as a crew change hub to help seafarers distressed by the pandemic, a large number of ships have been anchored in the area. The density of ships provides perpetrators with increased opportunities to come alongside in small boats during the hours of darkness to commit robbery/theft from the ships, according to ReCAAP ISC. However, its records also show that 54% of all incidents recorded at anchorages/ports in the Philippines since January 2007 occurred in the Manila Bay.

While the majority of this year’s incidents in the Philippines are described as ‘CAT 4 incidents’, meaning that the perpetrators were unarmed and the crew not harmed, ReCAAP ISC also expresses concern about the increase in violence demonstrated by the perpetrators towards the crew. In the four most recent incidents, which took place at Manila’s South Harbour Anchorage Area during July and August 2021, the perpetrators were armed with knives and guns, and crew members were tied up and threatened. For further insight into these incidents, the mode of operation of the perpetrators, and the actions taken by the Philippine Coast Guard, please refer to ReCAAP ISC’s:

Alert on incidents at Manila Anchorage Areas of 23 August 2021,
Monthly Report of August 2021, and
Special Report on Incidents at anchorages/ports in the Philippines of 25 September 2020.

Recommendations

Ships are particularly vulnerable when at anchor and ReCAAP ISC urges ship masters and crew to exercise extra vigilance when staying at Philippine ports/anchorages, particularly at Manila Anchorage Areas. The following recommendations are highlighted:

• Keep a proper, visual lookout and pay particular attention to small boats approaching close to the ship.
• Keep the ship’s surroundings well lit, keep flood lights on.
• Keep the ship’s forward storeroom double/heavily locked.
• Keep equipment and accessories such as breathing apparatuses, brass articles, e.g. spare fire nozzles, and paint drums, in safe and secured stores.
• Sound alarm when sighting suspicious boats loitering in the vicinity of the ship, or suspicious persons onboard the ship.
• Do not engage in a confrontation with the perpetrators as they may be armed with guns/knives and can be violent.
• Report all incidents and suspicious activities in the vicinity immediately via Channel 16 to alert all ships nearby, the VTMS and nearest Coast Guard Station.

As general advice, we recommend Members and clients with vessels operating in South-East Asia to closely monitor the situation, via the websites of ReCAAP ISC and the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre and by staying in close contact with their local agents and regional authorities. A risk assessment should be conducted, and the relevant preventive measures adopted, following available industry guidelines, such as the “Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia”.
Source: GARD https://www.gard.no/web/updates/content/32404477/thefts-and-robberies-in-the-philippines

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