New Guidance on Abduction in Sulu-Celebes Seas
The ReCAAP ISC has produced the “Guidance on Abduction of Crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah”.
The guidance focuses on the incidents of abduction of crew from ships for ransom in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and in the waters off Eastern Sabah. It provides the guidance and analysis based on the information collected from past incidents in order to assist the shipping industry and ships to enhance their situation awareness and avoid such incidents.
This guidance complements the general guidance contained in the “Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia”
The Sulu-Celebes Seas region covers the tri-boundary area of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is strategically located and most international shipping passes through its maritime sea lanes.
In the Sibutu passage alone, an average of 14,000 ships passes yearly. Prior to 2016, there were kidnaps for ransom on land in the region carried out by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), an Islamic extremist group based in Southern Philippines.
On 26 March 2016, the first abduction of crew from ship was reported. It involved the tug boat, Brahma 12 and 10 of the Indonesian crew on board the boat were abducted. Since then, a spate of abduction of crew incidents were reported in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
During the period of 2016 to June 2019, a total of 29 incidents of abduction of crew (comprising 18 actual incidents and 11 attempted incidents) were reported by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to ReCAAP ISC. In 2016, a total of 18 incidents of abduction of crew (comprising 12 actual incidents and 6 attempted incidents) were reported.
In 2017, the number of incidents reduced to 7 (3 actual incidents and 4 attempted incidents), and in 2018, the number of incidents further reduced to 3 (2 actual incidents and 1 attempted incident).
There was one actual incident reported in 2019 (as of June 2019). In the 18 actual incidents, 75 crew were abducted in total. Among them, 65 crew were released or rescued and 10 crew were killed or died. There is no crew held in captivity.
Despite the decrease in the number of incidents and military and law enforcement efforts by the Philippine authorities, the perpetrators of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are still active in the region and looking for any opportunity to abduct crew from ships.