The Philippines-based Islamist extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has been responsible for a surge in offshore abductions in the southern Sulu and northern Celebes Seas over the last 12 months. The group kidnapped more than 50 foreign victims in more than 20 separate attacks during 2016, compared with five known foreign victims in 2015. The change in kidnapping tactics by the ASG has significantly impacted the number of incidents recorded.
Between February and September, ASG kidnappers exclusively targeted local fishing vessels and tugs, exploiting the relative lack of on board security measures to successfully abduct crew members. From October, Control Risks recorded a notable increase in the targeting of general cargo vessels, bulk carriers and chemical tankers. When compared with February to September, kidnapping rates trebled in frequency between October and December. This surge in maritime attacks is significant and has started to affect regional supply chains.
A temporary moratorium was imposed on coal transports from Indonesia to the Philippines amid ongoing fears of crew abductions, while the security of crew on tanker and cargo ships transiting between Australia and North Asia has also been called into question.