The coronavirus has been good for pirates.
Piracy incidents across Asia have doubled in the first half of this year due to the coronavirus, according to a report by Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).
The majority of attacks took place in the Singapore Strait, but there has been an alarming increase near Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and in the South China Sea as well.
While a majority of the piracy acts are considered smaller, opportunistic robberies, “Small crimes, if not addressed, can embolden criminals to commit more serious acts,” ReCAAP’s executive director Masafumi Kuroki told the BBC.
“[Sometimes] the pirates are local fishermen who see piracy as a way to supplement their incomes. In other parts of Asia, many are jobless young men who have travelled to Batam [in Indonesia] or other places looking for work,” Brandon Prins, a scholar of sea piracy at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville told the BBC.
The global pandemic is the cause of this upward tick on high seas robbery as joblessness rises.
“My fear has always been that COVID-19 would reduce global trade, which lowers growth, increases poverty and joblessness [and then] leads to more sea piracy,” Prins added.
“There is certainly concern that with trade going down, there will be fewer sailors on board ships [and therefore] fewer crew monitoring for potential pirates or armed robbers.”
A total of 77 seafarers were taken hostage or kidnapped for ransom since January, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The organization upped their presence in West Africa and Peru, with the Gulf of Guineas responsible for 90% of the world’s pirate attacks.