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Pirate Threat: 'Entire Shipping System' Vulnerable In Southeast Asia

Australian ships are having to navigate increasingly perilous regional seas.

09/05/2016 2:41 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Reuters
Australian vessels are at risk from more marine bandits in southeast Asia.

Forget Somalia. Australia's backyard is fast becoming the new global hub for ocean piracy, with Aussie vessels under increasing risk of attack, a new report has found.

The Allianz report, released Monday, found piracy attacks in southeast Asia were on the rise and the region was now responsible for about 60 percent of worldwide attacks.

Piracy now represented "a major concern for Australian ship owners and operators", a statement accompanying the report said.

Vietnam's oceans are the most dangerous in southeast Asia, accounting for 147, or 55 percent, of attacks last year, up from 37 percent in the previous corresponding period.

In Vietnam, the southern port of Vung Tau was where more than half of the hijackings took place in 2015.

Indonesia is another trouble spot, with authorities there said to be concerned attacks along its sea border with the Philippines could reach previous Somalian levels.

The increase in Asian piracy comes as attacks off Africa's east coast -- long considered the epicentre of global pirate operations -- have fallen sharply as ships moving through the area have stepped up their defenses.

Unlike pirates off the coast of Somalia, who often sought to ransom vessel crews, Asian pirates are increasingly hijacking ships to rob oil from slow-moving tankers, but usually leave workers alone.

According to MarketWatch, Asian marine bandits commonly board oil tankers, siphon the fuel, then release the ships.

The robbed oil is then sold on the black market.

Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty regional marine manager, Ron Johnson, said pirates were increasingly using hi-tech software to target vulnerable ships.

"The internet of things has opened up the shipping industry to the potential for hackers to access shipping company and port records, as well as on-board vessel identification and navigational systems," he said.

"This leaves the entire shipping system exposed, enabling pirates and terrorists to identify target cargoes and obtain information about more vulnerable ships and locations".

The industry needed "more robust cyber technology in order to monitor the movement of stolen cargoes", the report said.

Australian vessels are especially at risk given the amount of shipping traffic from Aussie ports through places like the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca.

View an online map here that offers a window into Australia's reliance on shipping for imports and exports.

Allianz's report comes as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the Seychelles on Sunday to address the problem of ocean piracy.

University of Sydney's Tim Stephens said the Strait of Malacca -- located near Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia -- was getting particularly tricky for Aussie skippers.

"That's of concern," the law of the sea expert told Fairfax Media recently.

"Piracy has always been a problem for shipping in south-east Asia. Most of those pirate attacks are pretty low key compared with what happens in Somalia but it's still pretty nasty."

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