The captain of a Costamare bulker was stabbed in the chest during a piracy attack that took place in late October, it has now emerged.

Initial reports of the incident from the Singapore maritime authorities only said that the captain had been “conveyed ashore to seek medical treatment” and did not disclose the identity of the vessel involved.

The attack took place aboard Costamare’s Marshal Islands-flagged, 63,800-dwt Merchia (built 2015), according to new information from the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, known as ReCAAP.

The attack took place outside Singapore territorial waters in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore about 2.1 nautical miles (3.8 km) south-west of Malaysia’s Mudah Selatan Lighthouse, adjacent to the eastbound lane of the traffic separation scheme, or TSS.

The captain is said to have reported to Costamare that five perpetrators armed with knives had boarded the ship, before he was stabbed in the chest, according to ReCAAP.

Costamare’s security officer subsequently notified the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore’s Port Operations Control Centre via email about the incident.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre operated by Singapore’s MPA directed the vessel to anchor off the western part of Singapore to facilitate a search by Singapore’s Police Coast Guard.

A search was subsequently carried out, but nothing was reported missing, according to the MPA.

The incident is the latest in an increasing number of commercial vessels being targeted by opportunistic thieves in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore with 60 incidents being reported since the beginning of 2023.

“Although injuries to crew as a result of boardings in the straits are rare, there [has been] a noticeable increase in the levels of violence perpetrated by armed robbers,” said Denmark’s Risk Intelligence in a recent note to clients.

“The recent violent acts do not necessarily portend a continued escalation during the upcoming months,” said Risk Intelligence analyst Thomas Timlen.

“It is believed that perpetrators operating in the area are aware that by minimising violence they will attract less attention from regional law enforcement authorities.

“Should there be a continuation of seafarers suffering injuries at the hands of armed robbers while transiting the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, there will be increasing pressure on regional law enforcement agencies to take appropriate measures.

“This in turn could result in more robust interventions by the authorities including the arrests and prosecutions of the assailants,” he added.

Risk Intelligence said that while these incidents involving weapons and violence raise concerns, they nonetheless remain anomalies.

“In the majority of cases perpetrators will tend to escape as soon as they realise they have been detected on board,” the company said.

“As recommended by IMO guidelines, crew should avoid confronting thieves and armed robbers, as doing so increases the potential for crew to be injured.”