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IFC Annual Report 2023: 58 incidents of theft, robbery and piracy at sea in Singapore Strait

IFC recorded 58 incidents of TRAPS in the Singapore Strait, which remains the main area of concern but it noted there was a notable 47% decrease in incidents in the second half of 2023.

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IFC Annual Report 2023: 58 incidents of theft, robbery and piracy at sea in Singapore Strait

The Information Fusion Centre (IFC), a regional Maritime Security centre hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy, on Saturday (17 February) released its annual report and infographic for 2023. 

The report and infographic covers Theft, Robbery and Piracy At Sea (TRAPS), Maritime Incidents and Contraband Smuggling, Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing, Irregular Human Migration, Environmental Security and Cyber Security. 

According to the report, IFC recorded 58 incidents of TRAPS in the Singapore Strait, which remains the main area of concern but it noted there was a notable 47% decrease in incidents in the second half of 2023.

“The 58 incidents recorded in 2023 is higher than 2022 (55) and 2021 (49), and is a continuing trend possibly due to the current slow economic recovery and the rising cost of living, prompting more locals to resort to petty theft,” IFC said in the report. 

Most of the incidents occurred in the Phillip Channel (34 Incidents), mainly Northeast of Karimun Besar Island and Northwest of Kepalajernih Island, where vessels have been known to decrease speed significantly when turning. The other area of concern is waters off Bintan and Batam islands (12 incidents). It is assessed that increased enforcement efforts by regional authorities in the waters off Bintan and Batam islands have caused perpetrators to shift their operations to the Phillip Channel.

Notably, the number of incidents in Singapore Strait fell by 47% in the second half of the year, assessed due to the overall stepped-up enforcement efforts by regional authorities. Particularly, a successful land operation mounted by Indonesian authorities in October led to the arrest of several members of a suspected sea robbery syndicate; following this, there was only 1 incident reported in November and December combined.

According to the report, bulk carriers were the most frequently targeted vessel types in the Singapore Strait, accounting for 69% of the incidents, followed by tugs and barges, and tankers making up 19% and 12% of the incidents respectively. 

“This is due to their slower speed (7 to 12 knots), and lower freeboard (less than 8m). Stolen Items include engine spare parts and small tools (bulk carriers and tankers), and scrap metal (tugs and barges),” IFC added.

Recent investigations by Indonesian authorities have also revealed that perpetrators have become more tech-savvy, making use of commercially available online applications in their handphones to select suitable targets (using AIS information to identify vessel type and speed) to increase chances of success.

IFC said the report and infographic are co-developed by its International Liaison Officers (ILO), with insights and data collected over the past years, covering IFC's 8 MARSEC categories within the IFC Area of Interest (AOI).

Note: Information Fusion Centre’s Annual Report 2023 and infographic can be downloaded here.

 

Photo credit: Information Fusion Centre
Published: 20 February, 2024

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Crime

Malaysia: MMEA seizes tugboat and tanker lorry for illegal fuel transfer

MMEA successfully apprehended a Myanmar national who was captain of ship and four crew members comprising two Indonesians, one Myanmar national and a local citizen, as well as a tanker lorry driver.

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Malaysia: MMEA seizes tugboat and tanker lorry for illegal fuel transfer

The Tawau Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Tuesday (9 April) detained a tugboat and a tanker lorry that were found to be carrying out an illegal fuel transfer in the waters of Tanjung Batu, Tawau.

MMEA Tawau Zone Director Shahrizan Raman said patrol boats received information from Tawau Maritime Zone intelligence unit regarding the operation at Komsa Tanjung Batu jetty at around 2.10 am.

Patrol boats that arrived at the scene found a tanker lorry on the jetty transferring about 10,000 litres of fuel to a tugboat.

Malaysia: MMEA seizes tugboat and tanker lorry for illegal fuel transfer

During the raid, MMEA successfully apprehended a Myanmar national who was the ship captain and four crew members comprising two Indonesians, one Myanmar national and a local citizen. The tanker lorry driver, a local, was also arrested in the operation.

All suspects were men and aged 32 to 57 years. MMEA added an inspection of their documents found no authorisation permits related to the fuel transfer activity.

MMEA said the boat and tanker lorry were seized with their fuel cargo before being escorted to the Tawau Maritime Zone Jetty for further investigation.

Malaysia: MMEA seizes tugboat and tanker lorry for illegal fuel transfer

The value of the seized items and fuel was estimated to be almost MYR 250,000.

This case is being investigated under the Customs Act 1967, Control of Supplies Act 1961 and Petroleum Development Act 1974. 

 

Photo credit: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
Published: 15 April 2024

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Vessel Arrest

Malaysia: MMEA detains oil tankers for illegal STS crude oil transfer in Melaka

Two tankers, registered in Panama and Palau, were found to be transferring crude oil without any documents of authorisation to carry out the operation on 26 March.

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Malaysia: MMEA detains oil tankers for illegal STS crude oil transfer in Melaka

The Melaka and Negeri Sembilan Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Wednesday (27 March) said it detained two ships that were conducting an illegal ship-to-ship (STS) transfer of crude oil on 26 March in waters off Kuala Linggi, Melaka.

Melaka and Negri Sembilan MMEA director Capt (M) Mohd Khairi Abd Aziz said a patrol vessel found the ships about three nautical miles south of Tanjung Dahlan. 

“Investigations found the tanker was transferring an oil cargo, suspected to be crude oil, to another tanker without having any documents of authorisation to carry out the operation,” said Capt Mohd Khairi.

Malaysia: MMEA detains oil tankers for illegal STS crude oil transfer in Melaka

The first tanker, registered in Panama, was operated by 26 crew including a captain including 16 Chinese nationals, four Sri Lankans and six Myanmar nationals.

While the second tanker, registered in Palau, was operated by 22 crews including the captain, 19 Russians, and three more from Georgia, Latvia and Indonesia.

The tankers were detained for investigations under Section 49 1B(1)(k) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 for conducting a STS oil transfer illegally and Section 49 1B (1)(l) for anchoring without permission. 

If found guilty, the offenders can face a fine up to MYR 100,000 or up to two years’ jail or both. 

 

Photo credit: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
Published: 28 March 2024

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Legal

Singapore police seizes local tugboat and SGD 8,200 cash, arrests 15 men over illegal MGO transaction

Preliminary investigations revealed crew misappropriated MGO without their company’s knowledge by selling it to members of a foreign-registered tugboat.

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15 MEN ARRESTED FOR ILLEGAL TRANSACTION OF MARINE GAS OIL

The Singapore Police recently arrested 15 men, aged between 26 and 56 years old, for their suspected involvement in an illegal transaction of marine gas oil (MGO).

On 1 March 2024, officers from the Police Coast Guard arrested eight crew members of a Singapore-registered tugboat and another seven crew members of a foreign-registered tugboat for their suspected involvement in illegal transaction of MGO at the sea off Tuas, Singapore.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the crew members of the Singapore- registered tugboat were believed to have misappropriated the MGO without their company’s knowledge by selling it to the crew members of a foreign-registered tugboat. The tugboat and cash amounting to SGD 8,200 were seized as case exhibits.

The eight crew members of the Singapore-registered tugboat will be charged in court with criminal breach of trust by employees and the seven crew members of the foreign-registered tugboat will be charged in court with dishonestly receiving stolen property on 2 March 2024.

If convicted for criminal breach of trust by employees under Section 408 of the Penal Code 1871, they shall be punished with an imprisonment term, which may extend to 15 years and shall be liable to a fine.

If convicted for dishonestly receiving stolen property under Section 411 (1) of the Penal Code 1871, they shall be punished with an imprisonment term that may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.

“The Police takes a serious view of illegal transaction of MGO in Singapore waters,” it said.

“The authorities will continue to conduct enforcement and security checks to prevent, deter and detect such illicit activities in Singapore waters.”

 

Photo credit: Singapore Police Force
Published: 4 March 2024

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