Malaysia, Indonesia deploy rapid response teams to fight growing piracy
MALAYSIA and Indonesia are deploying armed rapid reaction teams to combat soaring piracy attacks on merchant vessels in one of the world's busiest shipping chokepoints
MALAYSIA and Indonesia are deploying armed rapid reaction teams to combat soaring piracy attacks on merchant vessels in one of the world's busiest shipping chokepoints, Reuters reports.
More than 70 ships have been attacked in the Malacca and Singapore straits, on the western side of the Malay Peninsula, this year, the highest number since at least 2008.
"We have in general recommended that vessels proceeding to Singapore and passing Malaysian waters take appropriate security measures," said Michael Storgaard, spokesman for the world's biggest shipping firm Maersk Line.
One of the ships attacked recently week was the 8,850-TEU Maersk Lebu.
The surge of attacks has led the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), or coastguard, to deploy a helicopter-equipped special task force and rescue (STAR) team at Johor Bharu, First Admiral Maritime Zulkifili bin Abu Bakar told Reuters.
While the MMEA force would respond to robbery and hijacking incidents team members would sometimes be deployed on merchant ships operated by Malaysian government-linked firms, he said.
"The STAR team is in addition to the other MMEA personnel tasked to combat anti-piracy/sea robbery. I can't tell you the number of personnel, but (it is) formidable enough to undertake any anti-hijacking operations," said Admiral bin Abu Bakar.
Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia already coordinate naval and police patrols in the Malacca Strait and South China Sea, but have been hampered by a lack of resources, while sheltered coasts and islands make it easy for pirates to operate.
In most of the attacks in the Malacca and Singapore straits, lightly armed robbers flee, either empty-handed or after stealing ship's stores, while pirates off Africa tend to be heavily armed, attack larger ships and kidnap crews.
Ship operators say the low level of violence and strict arms regulations in southeast Asia make it difficult to employ armed guards. Instead, tougher onboard measures should be adopted, including the fitting of barbed wire, locking all doors and better lookouts.