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SE Asia piracy at five-year low Print
 Tue Apr 17 - AP

Piracy and armed robbery attacks against ships in Southeast Asia have fallen to their lowest levels in five years, a report showed Tuesday.

The figures indicate that the overall number of attacks in the region is on a downward trend, said the research from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

There were 12 armed robbery and piracy incidents reported in the first quarter to March, of which 10 were actual attacks and two were attempted raids, it said.

"These figures continue to suggest that the overall number of attacks in the region appears to be trending downward," the report said.

It said the number of incidents for the quarter is the lowest in the past five years.

Theft and robbery remained the main reason for the attacks, which were mostly carried out while vessels were at anchor.

More than half the attacks during the period were carried out against tankers and a majority took place within Indonesian waters, including within the vicinity of the Balongan oil export terminal east of Jakarta, it said.

"The Indonesian ports and anchorages remained the regional hotspots for armed robbery and piracy activities," it said.

The attacks were "small scale operations" and "were perhaps less discriminating when it came to selecting potential targets," it added.

There were three reported cases of piracy and armed robbery along the Malacca Strait during the quarter, all of them on the Indonesian side.

Malaysia and Singapore also border the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

In two cases, the pirates boarded vessels before it was dark, serving as a reminder that "it is vital to maintain a certain level of security measures regardless of time and location," the report said.

Singapore officials have voiced fears that militants might link up with pirates and blow up a hijacked ship along the Malacca Strait, choking the waterway and crippling global trade.

Half of the world's oil shipments pass through the Strait, which links the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

On Monday, military chiefs from the United States and Malaysia hailed improved security in the Strait following aggressive security patrols in recent years.

The Commander of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy J. Keating, said during a visit to Malaysia that information-sharing with allies to keep the waterway safe had improved.
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