Weekly Maritime Security Report 07 March 2017
East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Somalia: Puntland authorities seize illegal fishing vessel off Bossaso
The Puntland Maritime Police seized a foreign fishing vessel and arrested some 12 Yemeni sailors, thought to be illegally fishing in Somali waters, and escorted the boat back to Bossaso for further investigations.
PGI Analysis: Puntland maritime authorities have been tasked with patrolling the waters to prevent illegal fishing, human smuggling and piracy. Illegal fishing remains a major concern for Somali authorities, as the increase in the practice was an important precursor to the piracy epidemic between 2008-2012.
Philippines: Skiff follows cargo ship off Lihiman Island
Six persons on board a skiff followed a cargo ship for more than an hour between 1600 hrs and 1830 hrs local time, 4.4 nm northeast of Lihiman Island. The approach prompted the master to raise the alarm, increase speed and activate fire hoses, causing the suspicious skiff to move away and a patrol vessel to escort the ship to Sandakan port.
Philippines: Three speed boats approach bulk carrier off the coast of Bongao
According to a late report, three speed boats with five suspected pirates on board approached a Panama-flagged bulk carrier at 1345 hrs local time, 37.8 nm northwest of Bongao. The boats trailed the carrier which contacted the Philippine navy and proceeded to the next port of call. The pirates did not attack the vessel.
PGI Analysis: Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is known to be active in the waters between Borneo and the southern Philippines, and the group has conducted several kidnappings and killings in the surrounding areas, including off Tawi-Tawi province and the rest of the Sulu Archipelago, over the past year. ASG has increasingly targeted larger commercial vessels since October 2016, demonstrating its capabilities to successfully launch attacks on several occasions, such as the recent attack on the Vietnam-flagged Bulk Carrier MV Giang Hai on 18 February. During the attack, gunmen boarded the vessel off Doc Can Island, killing one crew member and kidnapping seven others. ASG are notoriously violent and routinely kill hostages when ransom deadlines pass without payment.
Congo: Unknown assailants rob supply vessel in Pointe Noire
According to a late report, an unspecified number of assailants robbed a Norway-flagged anchored supply vessel in Pointe Noire at 2130 hrs local time. The duty crew on board noticed the incident and raised the alarm. Seeing the crew alertness, the robbers escaped with an unspecified amount of cargo.
PGI Analysis: Non-violent robberies are regularly reported at Pointe Noire anchorage, and assailants are usually easily deterred by basic security procedures such as raising the alarm. Robbers are occasionally armed, although rarely willing to confront crew, and typically flee once the alarm is raised. Basic security measures are in place at Pointe Noire but appear to be insufficient in deterring petty thieves.
Nigeria: Unknown assailants board merchant vessel in Niger Delta
An unspecified number of assailants boarded an anchored merchant vessel a creek south of Onne in the Niger Delta at 0620 hrs local time. There were no initial reports on whether anything was stolen from the ship and the perpetrators were reported to have left the vessel.
PGI Analysis: Criminality targeting vessels, including theft, is regularly reported in the Niger Delta. Assailants have also been known to kidnap fishermen and attack civilians in communities in the Niger Delta, although reports of such attacks against commercial vessels in the region are rare.
Nigeria: Pirates release Russian, Ukrainian sailors after ransom payment
Pirates have released seven Russian sailors and one Ukrainian sailor after an undisclosed ransom was paid, according to human rights activist Pavel Butsay, cited by Russian news agency TASS. The sailors were abducted from the cargo ship the BBC Caribbean, owned by German shipping company Briese Schiffahrt, on 6 February.
Nigeria: Suspected pirate boat follows cargo vessel off the coast of Lagos
Crew on board a cargo vessel reported a suspected pirate boat following the vessel at 1640 hrs local time off the coast of Lagos. The suspected pirate boat reportedly followed the cargo vessel despite course alterations for two hours, before aborting the pursuit.
PGI Analysis: Nigerian pirates routinely target commercial vessels off Nigeria with the aim of kidnapping crew for ransom. Cases of hostages being murdered are rarely reported, as in most cases hostages are largely unharmed in order to secure payments. Nevertheless, crew are sometimes injured during kidnapping attacks as Nigerian pirates are among the most heavily armed in the world and are often willing to use force in order to board vessels to carry out abductions.
Select Maritime News
Colombia: Authorities seize 713 kg of cocaine at Barranquilla port
Counter-narcotics police confiscated 713 kg of cocaine at Barranquilla port. The drugs were concealed in pre-assembled houses, which were due to be shipped to Mexico. Colombia is one of the world's biggest producers of cocaine.
Liberia: Authorities seize three vessels for illegal fishing
A Defence Ministry spokesperson said a joint operation between Liberian authorities and NGO Sea Shepherd had led to the seizure of three foreign fishing vessels which were illegally fishing in the country's waters. The spokesperson said the vessels were from China, Ghana and a third was a Senegalese-flagged Spanish trawler, according to Sea Shepherd. The incident comes more than three weeks after Liberia began joint Operation Sola Stella to halt illegal fishing in its waters.
Libya: Gunmen seize Turkish tanker at Zuwarah port
Unidentified gunmen seized the Turkish-flagged oil tanker Haci Telli at the northwest port of Zuwarah, claiming the company leasing the vessel owes port authorities USD 433,000 for previous oil purchases. The gunmen are holding 11 crew members near the port, although the veracity of the claims that the operator owes money is unclear. Various militia groups compete across the country for control over oil revenue, complicating the environment for companies operating in Libya.
Libya: Eastern forces conduct air strikes against BDB at Sirte ports
Eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) forces carried out air strikes against the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) around Ras Lanuf, Es Sidra, Ben Jawad and Harawa in Sirte district, according to LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari. The strikes come after clashes broke out between the two forces near the oil ports of Es Sidra and Ras Lanuf on 3 March. The violence forced LNA forces to retreat from both ports, which are major oil export hubs, and the strikes are part of attempts to regain control over the area. The violence threatens to undermine the rise in oil production in Libya, which is currently around 700,000 barrels per day after the LNA ended a blockade at oil ports in the region in September 2016.
New Zealand: Earthquake affects CentrePort earnings
CentrePort, the port operator of Wellington port, reported that an earthquake on 14 November 2016 affected earnings. CentrePort suffered a USD 25.3 mn loss in the second half of 2016. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake damaged two 86 metre cranes, leaving them inoperable. CentrePoint CEO Derek Nind claimed repair works were underway and that full operations would resume within four to six months.
North Korea: Pyongyang fires four ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan
North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, off its eastern coast, early on 6 March, three of which landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone. The missiles were first reported to be unidentified projectiles by South Korean news agency Yonhap. They were launched at 0736 hrs local time from the Dongchang Ri missile site. They appear to be a protest by Pyongyang to ongoing military drills between South Korea and the US.
Panama: Panama Canal Authority declares tender for construction of new port void
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) reported its tender for the construction of a new port on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal was void, after none of the companies prequalified to bid placed an offer. The port at Corozal Oeste was due to be the sixth logistical terminal on the canal.
Sri Lanka: Navy arrests 13 Indian fishermen for poaching
The Sri Lankan navy arrested 13 Indian fishermen and confiscated two fishing boats, claiming that they had violated the International Maritime Boundary Line in the seas off Delft Island. Nine of the arrested fishermen are from Nagapattinam district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, while four were from Rameswaram, according to local media reports. Both countries frequently report such arrests due to the disputed maritime boundary.
Taiwan: Beijing carries out military drills near Taiwan
Taipei has publicly expressed concern over increased military drills being carried out by the Chinese Navy near the island Beijing considers a breakaway state. Fighter jets, bombers and early warning aircraft were deployed through the Miyako Strait between Okinawa and Taiwan, and warships then carried out exercises to improve interoperability between marine vessels and aircraft on 2 March, according to state media Xinhua.
Turkey: Police detain 130 Greece-bound migrants off Izmir
Turkish police detained at least 130 migrants off the shore of Izmir as they tried to reached the Greek island of Chios, Turkish Coast Guard officials said. The migrants were reportedly of Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, and Moroccan origin. A deal reached between the EU and Turkey in 2016 requires Turkish authorities to seal the Aegean route into Europe. The deal largely ended the migrant crisis in the Aegean.
Venezuela: Robbers board anchored tanker ship in Puerto La Cruz
Three robbers boarded a tanker anchored at Puerto La Cruz at 0650 hrs local time. The crew noticed the incursion and raised the alarm. The robbers fled the ship without stealing any goods. Thefts from anchorages are periodically reported in Venezuela.
United States: Dockworkers call off 24-hour strike
The International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) called on its members to forgo a 24-hour shutdown of US East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, as the union intends to seek an emergency meeting with the US Congress. The ILA had called the strike to protest against job losses. The organisation said it would seek local contract bargaining and oppose plans to fully automate terminals during the negotiations.
Yemen: UN seeks port access to prevent famine
UN relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien urged warring parties in Yemen to ensure access to the country's ports to facilitate the import of food, fuel and medicine. The UN officer said improved humanitarian access was critical to prevent famine amid an already dire humanitarian situation. Fighting in and around ports, as well as a maritime blockade, have had a severe impact on the ability to reliably import basic commodities. Earlier in February, air strikes at the rebel controlled port of Hodeidah destroyed five cranes, preventing the unloading of vessels.