Piracy down in Asia in 2020, but Abu Sayyaf remains a threat
The Level 3 Security Alert (highest) issued by the Ministry of Transport in China for Chinese-flagged vessels transiting the Straits of Malacca comes amid decreasing pirate attacks in the region. The number of actual and attempted reported piracy incidents in Asia fell to a 13 year low in the January-May period (ReCAAP ISC*). Only 19 armed ship robberies and 2 attempted cases were reported, down almost 50% from the same period in 2018. Since then there were two more robberies and one attempt, as well as crew abductions off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia. Crew members were released when the kidnappers realised they had no money for ransom. ReCAAP advises all vessels to reroute from the Sulu-Cebeles Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah if possible, and otherwise urges extra vigilance for vessels transiting the area. Intelligence reports in March indicated that Abu Sayyaf members were active there, using hostage-taking to raise funds (The Maritime Executive). Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for a bombing of a cathedral in the Philippines that killed 20 people in January.
*The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre