“Southeast Asian partners enhancing trilateral maritime patrols” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Law Breakers frequently attempt to exploit divisions of jurisdiction. How to deal with this? The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum contributor Gusty Da Costa reports from Indonesia (reproduced in full below),

IMAGE CREDIT: INDONESIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

The launch about five years ago of maritime patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas involving the armed forces of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have corresponded with a sharp drop in piracy and terrorism, officials and analysts said. The three nations plan to enhance the patrols with improved surveillance, intelligence and communication to boost security and economic stability.

The INDOMALPHI patrols, a moniker that combines the names of the partner nations, began in 2017 as a result of the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) signed a year earlier by the three governments. Security challenges are “especially daunting” in the seas, where the three nations’ maritime borders converge in an area “with a complex political history and a long legacy of illicit maritime activity,” according to Stable Seas, a nonprofit research initiative.

“The main objective is to enhance security in the Sulu and Sulawesi [Celebes] seas,” Indonesian Army Col. Kurniawan Firmizi, a senior official at the Indonesian Defense Ministry, told FORUM. “A high level of protection with all parties can be beneficial. It can increase the economy, facilitate traffic flows between countries adjacent to the Sulu Sea area, and improve border security and international cooperation. The goal is to secure the Sulu Sea and maritime border waters for all three countries.”

Since their launch, the INDOMALPHI patrols have deterred and defended against attacks on vessels at sea by pirates and violent extremist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Kurniawan said. According to Indonesia’s Defense Ministry, known as Kemhan, there were no reports of piracy for ransom in the patrolled waters in 2021. As recently as 2017, there were 99 reports of piracy and armed robbery in the area, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

Four categories of patrol enhancements were announced at the TCA Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in late March 2022, Kemhan reported. They are: optimizing communication by deploying a liaison officer from each partner nation to each country’s maritime command center; conducting trilateral maritime exercises; adopting an intelligence-led approach to surveillance operations; and improving the TCA structure, communication and coordination to increase partners’ participation and commitment. (Pictured, from left: Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Malaysian Senior Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Philippine National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attend the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in March 2022.)

“There has been an increase in surveillance technology, including drones and satellite systems,” Kurniawan said.

The INDOMALPHI patrols demonstrate the expansive benefits of multilateralism, Connie Rahakundini Bakrie, a defense analyst and the author of “Defending Indonesia,” told FORUM.

“These countries will undoubtedly increase their cooperation with other regions, such as Europe, by securing their maritime areas,” she said. “The reason is that trading traffic will be smoother since it is safe, so the risk-cost will be lower.”

She recommended two additional improvements: increase patrol frequency in the Sulu Sea; and supplement patrols with “additional aircraft such as reconnaissance aircraft, close air support or attack aircraft, commandos from helicopters, etc.”

“French Navy’s 2021 Report On Global Maritime Security” –Naval News

In reading this, note the difference between piracy and maritime robbery is that, the first occurs on the high seas, while maritime robbery takes place within a nation’s territorial sea or internal waters. 

Naval News reports publication of a report by the French Navy’s

“The Maritime Information Cooperation and Awareness Center (MICA Center) of the French Navy released its 2021 annual report on maritime piracy and robbery acts that impacted worldwide maritime security.”

For me, there were two surprises in the Naval News report. First there was the surprisingly good news, that incidents were much reduced in the Gulf of Guinea, but then there seemed to be the bad news, that the Caribbean was one of the two worst areas for piracy and maritime robbery.

But looking at the complete original report, Sec. 3.4, it finds that the “Caribbean Sea is an area where the threat of piracy or robbery is considered low.” I presume this apparent conflict between a high number of incidents and low probability, is due to the high traffic in the Caribbean.

Most of the “piracy/maritime robbery” reported in the Caribbean was non-violent theft from anchored yachts. This is very different from the Gulf of Guinea, where kidnappings and attacks on ships are still relatively common.

The report also comments on immigration, drug trafficking, and illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing.

“Danish Navy Frigate Kills 4 Pirates in Gulf of Guinea Anti-Piracy Mission” –USNI

Gulf of Guinea, from Wikipedia

The US Naval Institute reports an incident off the West African Coast in which a Danish Frigate, the HDMS Esbern Snare (F342), while engaged in a counter piracy operation, observed a suspicious vessel and attempted to investigate. This led an exchange of gunfire.

“By the evening, Esbern Snare was close enough to launch rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs) carrying Danish naval special forces personnel and called on the boat to halt and permit boarding, the news release said. When the boat refused to respond to the call, warning shots were fired, with the pirates responding by firing directly at the personnel in the RHIBs. A brief firefight then ensued, in which no Danish personnel were hit but five pirates were shot, with four of them killed and one wounded.”

The USCG cutter operate in this area periodically, doing “capacity building.” Its not impossible a cutter will find itself in a similar situation.

The imbalance of the results of the firefight, 5-0, which probably would have looked fairly even on paper, speaks volumes for the equipping and training of the Danish boat crew and boarding party.

“NIGERIA RECORDS LOWEST LEVEL OF PIRACY SINCE 1994” –Baird Maritime

The Nigerian Navy frigate NNS Thunder, former USCGC Chase (Photo: International Chamber of Shipping)

Baird Maritime gives us some good news out of Nigeria,

The trend of reduction in piracy and armed robbery in Nigerian waters has continued, with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reporting in its third quarter 2021 account a 77 per cent decrease in the first nine months of the year, compared to the same period last year.

Nigeria reported four incidents in the first nine months of 2021, in comparison to 17 in 2020 and 41 in 2018. This represents a 77 per cent decrease in incidents between 2021 and 2020, and a 95 per cent reduction from 2018. The IMB also reported a 39 per cent reduction in piracy and armed robbery incidents in the Gulf of Guinea.

I think perhaps the US Coast Guard may have had something to do with this. They now have two former USCG WHECs, Chase and Gallatin, transferred in 2011 and 2014 respectively. USCGC Thetis was there in 2019 for Exercise Obangame Express. Coast Guard teams also operated from Navy vessels.

“Republic Of Singapore Navy Stands Up New Maritime Security And Response Flotilla” –Naval News

Note the graphic may be distorted here, click on it for a better view. 

Naval News reports that the Singapore Navy has formed a new “Maritime Security and Response Flotilla.”

“As part of the restructured Maritime Security Command, the new MRSF is set up to better trackle evolving maritime threats that have grown in scale and complexity, particularly in the Singapore strait area. According to a recent French Navy report on worldwide maritime piracy and robbery, robbery is on the rise in South East Asia, particularly in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca.”

Aside from a pair of tugs, the primary assets of the new flotilla are four renovated and renamed Fearless Class patrol craft that will fill the function until a new class is completed (expected in 2026).

Perhaps most interesting, are the changes made to the vessels for their new role. These include enhanced communications equipment, a long range acoustic device and laser dazzler system, installation of a fender system, and modular ballistics protection–and a red racing stripe.

The Fearless Class patrol craft: Twelve vessels commissioned 1996-98. All out of service by the end of 2020, replaced by eight Littoral Missions Ships.

  • Displacement: 500 tons fl
  • Length: 55 m (180 ft)
  • Beam: 8.6 m (28.2 ft)
  • Draft: 2.2 m (7.2 ft)
  • Speed: 36 knots
  • Propulsion: 16,860 HP, two KaMeWa waterjets
  • Range 1,800@15 knots

Singapore also has a Police Coast Guard as part of its Police Force with patrol craft of up to 35 meters in length.

New Addition to “Recommended Blogs” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) sales alongside the Indian coast guard ships Abheed and Shaurya (16) Aug. 23, 2019, while transiting in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Chennai, India. The Stratton is participating in a professional exchange with the Indian coast guard that includes operational exercises at sea and on shore. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Esterly)

I have made an addition to my “Recommended Blogs” page (which is also my daily reading list) that you may find interesting, the Indo-Pacific Defense Forum.

Below I have duplicated the self description from their “About Us” page. The page also includes contact information not duplicated here.

In addition to English, this site is also published in Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Korean, and Japanese.

Not all the content is Coast Guard related, but it seems much of it is.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.


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