Is piracy rising in the Singapore Strait?

Three cargo ships were robbed in the Singapore Strait last week, according to a regional security body. The Strait is a prime target for two reasons:

  1. Proximity to land: It’s just 5km wide at its narrowest point, making it easy for pirates to disappear after an attack, and
  2. Traffic: The Strait is one of the busiest waterways on Earth, with more than 100,000 ships passing through annually.

Numerically, piracy seems to be getting worse there, with 38 incidents in the first half of this year, compared to 27 for the same period last year.

But qualitatively, the situation looks a bit more stable: most pirates have been unarmed, 95% didn’t harm the crew, and nearly half left empty-handed.

Intrigue’s take: So… what’s going on?

It seems this is less about hardened pirates, and more about locals in Malaysia and Indonesia struggling to make ends meet. Their economies are still in recovery mode, fishing hauls are down, and so random items from passing ships offer a way to earn some cash on the black market.

Also worth noting:

  • Most incidents in the Singapore Strait this year have happened between 10pm and 5am, and during a darker moon phase.
  • From the 38 incidents during the first half of this year, authorities have made one arrest.
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