(EnergyAsia, March 11 2015, Wednesday) — Piracy, maritime accidents and potential terrorist acts are adding to the cost of moving and distributing oil and gas cargoes and general merchandise in Southeast Asia at a time of rising traffic through the increasingly congested Straits of Malacca and the Singapore Straits, said industry officials and analysts.
Transits by vessels of over 300 gross tones through the Straits Of Malacca reached a record 79,344 last year, reported Seatrade Global citing a study by the Nippon Maritime Center. The study found that an average 217 vessels sailed through the strait everyday to deliver cargoes from the Middle East, Africa and Europe to East Asia in 2014 compared with 201 in 2011.
Consultant IHS expects growing incidences of maritime accidents in Southeast Asia and Europe while UK-based insurance broker Seacurus has begun offering coverage for shipowners, operators and charterers of petroleum vessels to deal with the region’s rising threat profile.
The growing threats to Southeast Asia’s maritime sector
Piracy in Asian waters last year reached its highest levels since the ReCAAP Information-Sharing Centre started keeping records in 2006.
According to the piracy watch centre, there were more than 170 actual or attempted sea attacks in Indonesia, the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca and Strait of Singapore. The number of incidents surpassed the previous record of 167 in 2010.
Of growing concern is that the pirates are also more violent and desperate, said ReCAAP.
Writing for Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) think tank, Sam Bateman said there is growing concern for the safety and security of passenger ships with Singapore becoming an important hub port for cruise liners.
“Singapore has accepted a large responsibility for search and rescue in the region, and would be heavily involved in rescue operations in the event of a major passenger ship accident in regional waters,” he wrote in a recent research paper.
In 2012, Singapore opened a new cruise terminal that now attracts some of the world’s biggest cruise liners.
Asia’s growing affluence has led to an increase in the supply and demand of large cruise vessels sailing in regional waters alongside ferries as well as merchandise and energy vessels.
Human error is a major cause of shipping accidents, including faulty operation of equipment leading to a fire.
Of growing concern to governments in the region is that passenger ships are potentially an attractive target for terrorists.
Already, there have been instances of terrorist bomb attacks on ferries in Indonesia and the Philippines, said Mr Bateman.