The United States is the 20th member of ReCAAP, committed to fighting maritime piracy in Southeast Asia. Image: US Navy.

US Joins Multilateral Maritime Anti-Piracy Agency

ASEAN China Japan Korea Australia

In September, the United States became the latest nation to join the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP). ReCAAP is a multilateral agreement which commits its signatories to enhancing regional cooperation against maritime piracy in Southeast Asia through information sharing, capacity building and cooperative arrangements.

When originally agreed in 2004, ReCAAP was the first government‐to‐government partnership to promote this type of enhanced anti-piracy collaboration. The agreement also established the Information Sharing Center (ISC) for information exchange and incident reporting among contracting parties. Twenty nations are now signatories of the ReCAAP including China, Australia, the UK, Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea. The addition of the US adds some much important strength to an often under-recognized institution.

Following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, a surge in maritime piracy threatened the security of trade routes in Southeast Asia, which is a problem that persists today. During 2013, 161 attacks were reported around the Strait of Malacca, according to Deutsche Welle. While 106 of these attacks occurred in Indonesian waters, and another 9 near Malaysia, neither of those nations has signed the ReCAAP.

In October of this year, a Vietnamese oil tanker, Sunrise 689, disappeared from the radar on its way from Singapore to Vietnam. The ship reappeared days later near the Singapore Straight with a third of its cargo – some 2,000 tons of oil – missing. No crew members were killed, and the identity and location of the attackers are still unknown. This is the 12th such incident in the region since April, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The Strait of Malacca, one of the most vital sea lanes in the world, carries around 40% of global trade through its waters each year. The United States has a great interest in the area, particularly in its position as a crucial oil transit chokepoint. America’s enormous resources will assist ReCAAP in becoming an information hub for combating maritime piracy in the region. The International Maritime Organization sees that the ReCAAP as an example of regional cooperation that can be hopefully replicated elsewhere.

Recognizing its geostrategic importance, the US cooperates with ASEAN and its member states on a multitude of intitatives ensuring security and stability in the region. Image: ASEAN Matters for America, 2014.

Jonathan Gordon recently graduated from the University of Sydney and is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C.