Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand have discussed strengthening and enhancing maritime cooperation in the region, encouraging one another to share information to combat piracy and armed robberies against ships at sea.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) held a May 24 consultative meeting at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in Phnom Penh to discuss cooperation in dealing with such crimes.

In collaboration with the ministry, the ReCAAP meeting brought together representatives of the shipping community and maritime authorities from the four ASEAN member states.

“The meeting was held to strengthen the cooperation of ReCAAP countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion [GMS] and Asia to share experiences and push for the procedure of exchanging information,” said the ministry.

“The ReCAAP representatives from Vietnam, Thailand and Laos shared methods to strengthen and share information and cooperation with Cambodian authorities to crack down on marine crimes,” said a May 24 ReCAAP social media post.

Mak Sideth, director-general of the ministry’s Department of Waterway and Maritime Transport, said that due to the essential goods and valuable cargo transiting through Cambodia’s ports and territorial waters daily, the department worked closely with the port authorities and maritime police to detect and deter criminals who plan to commit robberies on ships anchored in Cambodian ports and anchorages.

“The maritime police also conduct regular patrols and keep a lookout for suspicious looking vessels which may be used by perpetrators to commit sea robberies,” he added.

Krishnaswamy Natarajan, ReCAAP executive director, said the meeting had strengthened the understanding between Cambodian maritime agencies and the shipping community, as well as fostered greater synergy between ReCAAP members.

“ReCAAP will continue to co-organise meetings with our members to build their knowledge and capacity to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia,” he said.

According to ReCAAP, on April 17, an armed gang robbed a container ship anchored at a station in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. The gang stole the ship’s cargo.

It added that on May 22, an armed band robbed a cargo ship at the Singapore Strait. They had taken machine spare parts, but the crew members were safe.

ReCAAP is the first regional government-to-government agreement to promote and enhance cooperation against piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. The agreement entered into force in September 2006, with 14 Asian nations as signatories. An information sharing centre was established later that year.

To date, 21 states – 14 Asian countries, five European nations, Australia and the US – have become contracted parties to ReCAAP. ReCAAP enhances regional cooperation through information sharing, capacity building and cooperative arrangements.