25 April 2016

[250416.EN.SEA] Indonesia Issues Islamicist Pirate Warning to Shipping Traversing Sulu Sea

INDONESIAN maritime authorities are issuing piracy warnings to shipping, fearing its coast line bordering the Philippines will become as pirate infested as the waters off Somalia.

Fears were ignited after a series of kidnappings by pirates affiliated with Islamacist paramilitaries, Reuters reports, adding that the route carries US$40 billion worth of cargo each year.

The route is taken by fully laden supertankers from the Indian Ocean that cannot use the crowded Malacca Strait.

Concerns over maritime attacks by suspected Islamist militants are disrupting the coal trade, with at least two Indonesian coal ports suspending shipments to the Philippines.

Up to 18 Indonesians and Malaysians have been kidnapped in three attacks on tugboats in Philippine waters by groups suspected of ties to the Abu Sayyaf militant network.

Abu Sayyaf, which has posted videos on social media pledging allegiance to Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, has demanded PHP50 million (US$1.06 million) to free the Indonesian crew.

"We don't want to see this become a new Somalia," Indonesian Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters, referring to the southern Philippine waters of the Sulu Sea, where the abductions took place.

Piracy near Somalia's coast has subsided in the last few years, mainly due to shipping firms hiring private security details and the presence of international warships.

The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet in Jakarta to discuss the possibility of joint patrols, Mr Pandjaitan said.

He said the armed forces chiefs of the three countries would hold talks in Jakarta on May 3.

The Indonesian Navy has instructed all commercial vessels "to avoid piracy-prone waters around the southern Philippines", a spokesman for the Indonesian military said.

The navy is increasing patrols around Indonesia's borders with Malaysia and the Philippines "to prevent acts of piracy and hijacking", Tatang Sulaiman told Reuters.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre has also warned ships sailing in the Celebes Sea and northeast of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo to stay clear of suspicious small vessels.

Source : HKSG.

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