The fight against piracy in Southeast East has just been boosted.
Eleven countries (Brunei, Cambodia, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Thailand) have signed up to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). The governing council of the ReCAAP will have about 15 full-time staff, drawn from member countries, run by an executive director.
Singapore is at the forefront of this new initiative with the establishment of an Information Sharing Centre (ISC) situated in the island state. The Centre, a one-stop facility, offering information distribution service, a receptor of information relayed to it from affected vessels or non-government agencies and data analysis.
This is Southeast Asia’s own bid to lower dependence on foreign monitoring agencies, specifically, the London-based International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur which has been the most active agency in monitoring piracy attacks in Southeast Asia.
The establishment of Southeast Asia’s own monitoring agency could also be a reaction to London insurer Llyod's repeated rejection of requests by Southeast Asian nations to drop the Malacca Strait from its list of war-risk areas despite a drop in piracy attacks in the region. "The numbers have dropped very sharply. There are no justification unless Llyod's have some other information that we are not aware of," said Noel Choong, head of the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre based in Kuala Lumpur.
The Strait of Malacca region was declared vulnerable to "war, strikes, terrorism and related perils" by Lloyd's Market Association's Joint War Committee, an advisory body made up of underwriters from the Lloyd's insurance market. The move meant ships must pay as much as $5,000 extra in insurance premium for passing through the 805-km (500-mile) Straits of Malacca.
Before the outfit become fully operational, a committee headed by Singapore’s Transport Ministry's Permanent Secretary, Brigadier-General (NS) Choi Shing Kwok, consisting of representatives from Singapore’s Maritime Port Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Police Coast Guard will do the initial start-up work for the ISC.
This new initiatives against piracy have Japan to thank for their materialization. They originate from the ideas of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2001 whom, at the height of pirate attacks in Southeast Asia (numbering 335 that year), pushed for strengthen measures against piracy.
Japan which sees Indonesia as the state in the region requiring most help has also separately provided aid for them. Japan's Ambassador to Indonesia Shin Ebihara officially handed over a grant of US$17.24 million in June 2006 for anti-piracy measures. A statement by the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta reads: "Japan has decided to extend grant aid to Indonesia for the construction of patrol vessels. This assistance is to support Indonesia's efforts for the prevention of piracy, maritime terrorism and weapons proliferation."
Japan also has its own interests to protect. The same statement released by the embassy of Japan noted that thirty percent of the world's piracy and armed robbery at sea happens in Indonesian waters, while 19 percent of the more than 50,000 ships that pass through those waters carry Japanese commerce and oil. 80% ofChina’s and Japan’s oil supplies pass through these waters.
Multi-govt effort to fight piracy takes off (Straits Times, 22 June 2006)
Japan gives RI US$17.24 m grant (Jakarta Post, 16 June 2006)
Llyod's should drop Malacca Strait from war list-body (Bernama, 15 June 2006)