September 28 ------ ReCAAP issued a special report based on a significant increase in incidents in the anchorage and ports of the Philippines since the beginning of 2020. The report was prepared to highlight the situation and also to warn ships operating in the area to employ extra precautions. According to their tracking, the incidents in the first nine months of 2020 are more than double the total number of incidents for all of last year. In all of 2019, there were only seven reported incidents in the area. The report attributes the increase in incidents in the Philippines, and specifically Manila, due to the increase in the number of vessels arriving at the port. They highlight that Manila has been functioning as a Green Zone for crew changes during the pandemic, which means that it is attracting more ships and playing a vital role in the maritime industry. “The large number of ships anchored in the area provides opportunities for perpetrators to come alongside in small boats during hours of darkness to commit robbery/theft from the ships,” says ReCAAP.
“In view of the increase of the number of incidents at Manila and Batangas anchorages/ports, ReCAAP ISC reiterates that collective efforts and shared responsibilities by all stakeholders are necessary to combat robbery/theft incidents in the area. Ship master and crew are strongly advised to exercise vigilance, maintain constant look-out for suspicious boats in the vicinity, report all incidents immediately to the authorities,” concludes the report. The analysis shows that since January 2020 there have been a total of 13 incidents reported in the Philippines, including nine at anchorage in Manila. The other incidents were at Batangas and one at the General Santos Harbor anchorage. While the number of incidents increased in Manila, it is down by one in Batangas so far this year versus all of 2019.
Two of the incidents Batangas in August are of special concern because they showed an increased level of violence against the crew members. In one incident, “a perpetrator armed with a long knife boarded the tanker by climbing the mooring lines located at the starboard astern of the ship. The perpetrator entered the cabin of the general steward, threatened him by pointing a knife at him, and stole his personal belongings.” In the other, a crew member came upon an intruder and accidentally grabbed the person’s bolo by the blade cutting the crew member’s hand while trying to stop the intrusion. The attacks appear to be random as they are happening to tankers, containerships, and bulk carriers and generally involve one to three people. If they were armed it is generally with knives. Many incidents involve petty theft unless the crew was able to scare the intruders away. However, there have been both threats and assaults of crew members aboard their ships.
The Philippine Coast Guard has responded to the increase in robbery and theft by undertaking additional inspections of small vessels and suspicious boats in the area. Based on the increase in the number of incidents of sea robbery reported at Manila and Batangas anchorages/ports, ReCAAP is advising the shipping industry to enhance vigilance and maintain strict anti-robbery watches. ReCAAP is also advising ships to illuminate their hulls and surrounding waters at night while maintaining a lookout for small boats that might be attempting an approach. Alarms should be sounded if a suspicious vessel is approaching or, of course, if an unknown person is found on board. ReCAAP is also advising of added precautions to be taken aboard the ships, including adding extra and strong locks on the ship’s forward storeroom as well as ensuring that likely objects for theft, including breathing apparatus, brass articles (such as fire nozzles) or paint drums are secured.