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Crew Kidnaps in Southeast Asia: An Emerging Threat

April 8th 2016
Another month, another emerging threat. This time, we turn our attention to the waters around the Philippines and the activities of Abu Sayyaf militants and those affiliated with them.


On March 25th the tug Brahma 12 was underway in position 04:48.57N-119:12.53E, en route from Jakarta to Manila, when she was boarded by 10 armed militants from the Abu Sayyaf group, according to media reports. The IMB state that the tug was towing a coal barge at the time of the incident and that the armed men hijacked the tug and took its 10 crew hostage. They abandoned the tug off Languyan Island, Philippines.


Then, on April 1st at 0915 LT, another tug, the Massive 6, was attacked and boarded in position 04:7.56N-118:56.0E by eight armed men who opened fire on the vessel. They stole crew personal belongings and kidnapped four crew before leaving the tug. The remaining crew then sailed to Semporna and rendezvoused with a MMEA patrol boat.


While Abu Sayyaf is a known kidnap threat in the region, there are a number of groups aligned with Islamic State who also kidnap foreigners for ransom. The Philippines’ authorities estimate that there are currently 18 people being held by militants.


In response to the incident on March 25th, the Indonesian government is readying a rapid response force in Tarakan, close to the border with Malaysia and the waters shared with the Philippines. While negotiations are understood to be ongoing, the rapid response force is clearly intended as a very obvious threat to the kidnappers.


While crew kidnappings and hostage negotiations are sadly familiar stories for shipping companies operating in West Africa or the Indian Ocean, attacks such as this on vessels in Southeast Asia are a new potential threat which shipping must take in to account.


As always, the best advice is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Enforcing BMP measures and regular anti-piracy watch routines may well make the difference for your crew.


Naturally, CSO Alliance will continue to monitor the situation and advise members accordingly.