Weekly Maritime Security Report 09 May 2017
East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Iran: Suspicious skiffs approach merchant vessel off Bandar-e Jask
A merchant vessel reported that four skiffs approached their ship 14 nm southwest of Bandar-e Jask, sighting a long hook but no weapons on board the boats. No further details of the incident were immediately disclosed, although the approach comes hours after a bulk carrier reported that it came under attack in the same area.
Iran: Pirates attack merchant vessel in Gulf of Oman
Greek-flagged bulk carrier Navios Hios reported that it came under attack at 1910 hrs local time, 14 nm southwest of Bandar-e Jask. VHF reports indicate three skiffs and a mothership approached the vessel, and that ladders were sighted on board the skiffs. A mothership also approached from Astern. Further details of the incident have not yet been disclosed, although automatic identification system data shows the vessel located at Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE.
Yemen: Vessel reports suspicious approach by nine skiffs off Al Mukalla
A suspicious group of nine black and white-hulled skiffs, each with three persons on board, was sighted around 82 nm southeast of Al Mukalla, Yemen, in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). The skiffs surrounded the mother vessel to a distance of 0.6 nm, prompting the vessel to fire two warning shots before the skiff moved away.
Yemen: Vessels report suspicious skiffs around Bab el Mandeb entrance
The Dubai-based United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO) received reports of a suspicious group of 3-4 skiffs at the entrance of the Bab el Mandeb, 12 nm off Yemen. The skiffs had green and white hulls and each had 4-5 persons on board, although it was not disclosed whether weapons were sighted on the skiffs. The notice advised shippers to exercise caution while transiting the area.
PGI Analysis: Piracy incidents in the Gulf of Oman, particularly so close to the Iranian coast have been rare in recent years, with the majority of attacks clustering in the Gulf of Aden and Bab el Mandeb. The Gulf of Oman attacks mark a significant development in the latest spate of attacks against vessels in the High Risk Area (HRA) since mid-March 2017, indicating pirates have expanded their territorial range in the region, underscoring the fast-developing nature of the piracy threat in the region. The reports demonstrate the continued heightened threat of piracy attacks in the HRA amid an uptick in attempted attacks and suspicious approaches in the Gulf of Aden and Bab el Mandeb after four successful hijackings against commercial vessels in the High Risk Area since 13 March 2017.
Indonesia: Robbers steal engine spares from bulk carrier off Jakarta
Three robbers boarded a Singapore-flagged bulk carrier anchored in the Tanjung Priok Anchorage, Jakarta. The robbers entered the engine room at 0100 hrs local time and stole ship engine parts before fleeing. The crew saw the robbers fleeing and raised the alarm.
PGI Analysis: Petty thefts are common at Indonesian anchorages, particularly overnight when opportunistic thieves look to take advantage of low visibility. Robbers are typically unarmed and easily deterred, although there have been some reports of more violent robberies in the region in recent months where crew have been assaulted and tied up.
Cote d'Ivoire: Merchant vessel reports suspicious approach at Abidjan anchorage
The crew on board an anchored merchant vessel noticed an unlit boat approaching with seven people on board at 0030 hrs local time. The crew was alerted, sounded the alarm and activated the hoses on the ship's sides. The boat circled the merchant vessel before moving away. Theft and attempted theft from ships anchored at Abidjan is intermittently reported.
Ghana: Assailants attempt to board vessel at Tema anchorage
A merchant vessel reported that crew sighted two people climbing from a fishing boat up the ship's port anchor chain at 0720 hrs local time, prompting the master to raise the alarm. The assailants aborted the attempt and escaped into a fishing boat with four persons on board when they heard the alarm. Crew reported the incident to port control and Tema port authorities advised they would send a security boat to investigate the incident.
PGI Analysis: Robberies are sporadically reported at ports and anchorages across West Africa, although many other incidents are likely to go unreported, due to the overall high levels of criminality in countries such as Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana. Robberies targeting anchored vessels are usually non-violent due to the proximity of security personnel, with violent attacks more likely to occur further out at sea where vessels have less security.
Select Maritime News
Bangladesh: Dhaka seeks foreign aid to ease congestion at Chittagong port
The Asian Development Bank reported it is considering a request by the Bangladeshi government for a USD 250 mn loan to upgrade the port of Chittagong. The lender will complete a report on the request by the end of May, after which a decision will be taken on whether to grant the loan, in addition to technical assistance. Chittagong port handles more than 90 percent of the country's international cargo volumes, but has a draft of only 9.2 m, therefore requiring the costly transfer of cargo from large to small vessels prior to discharge.
Colombia: Ecopetrol announces biggest gas find in 28 years
State oil company Ecopetrol reported it discovered gas at an exploratory well it shares with Anadarko Petroleum in deep waters in the Caribbean Sea. The find was made in areas located between 3,675 and 4,415 meters below sea level, close to the Kronos-1 and Purple Angel-1 wells in adjacent blocks. Ecopetrol pointed to the possibility of developing a production cluster, while President Juan Manuel Santos said the find, which was the biggest in 28 years, would allow the country to be energy-sufficient in coming decades.
Greece: Sailors union calls for 48-hour strike from 10 May
The PNO umbrella union, which represents sailors, called for a 48-hour strike from 10 May to protest government promises of social security reforms and changes to labour regulations. The strike is likely to leave ferry services severely affected nationwide. Government economic measures, introduced as part of a deal with international creditors, frequently trigger unrest or industrial action in Greece.
Guinea: Authorities detain eight Chinese vessels over illegal fishing
Inspectors from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau detained eight Chinese vessels on suspicion that they violated fishing regulations prohibiting the catching of protected fish using nets. The operation came after a two-month patrol of the region by a Greenpeace ship.
Libya: German navy seizes ship carrying weapons off eastern coast
The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that a German navy vessel had seized a Libyan-flagged ship carrying military equipment off the coast of Libya. The operation was part of an EU-led initiative to combat arms smuggling. Automatic rifles, mortars, anti-tank weapons and large quantities of ammunition and hand grenades were found on the ship which was stopped east of the coastal city of Misurata. Contraband trafficking is widespread in the region.
Nigeria: Federal government to spend USD 186 mn to combat piracy
The Nigerian government approved a USD 186 mn plan to combat piracy in its waters. The money will initially be used to buy three aircraft and three helicopters, the minister of transportation said. The announcement came amid an increase in the frequency of kidnap-for-ransom attacks off the coast of Nigeria.
Nigeria: Watchdog reports piracy attacks almost doubled in 2016
Anti-piracy NGO Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) reported that attacks against vessels in the Gulf of Guinea almost doubled in 2016 to 95 incidents, compared to 2015 figures which saw 44 such attacks, according to their records. OBP said the region has seen a rise in kidnap-for-ransom cases over cargo theft, as abductions present lower risks for attackers. The pattern of attacks at sea is linked to the rise in militancy in the Niger Delta, the restive southeast region where many of the pirate groups are based, which saw a rise in attacks against oil infrastructure in 2016.
North Korea: Satellite images reveal Pyongyang building artificial islands in Yellow Sea
New satellite images obtained by the Washington-based think-tank Strategic Sentinel has revealed North Korea is building artificial islands in the Yellow Sea which appear to hold military infrastructure. The islands are located about 50 km from Pyongyang near the western city of Sohae, not far from the Chinese border. In 2012, the islands were small rocky shoals, and new images from December 2016 show they have wide long roads connecting them to the mainland and paved lots for vehicles. The think tank has speculated the wide roads and lots could be used for huge missile-bearing trucks. Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been heightened after Pyongyang conducted multiple nuclear and missile tests since 2016.
Philippines: Update: Army confirms death of senior Abu Sayyaf pirate leader
The Philippine army's Chief of Staff Eduardo Ano announced that senior Abu Sayyaf leader Alhabsy Misaya, who was behind much of the group's piracy, kidnappings, executions and bombings, had been killed in the jungle between Indanan and Parang towns in Sulu province, one of the group's strongholds. Misaya was behind the high-profile kidnapping of three International Committee of Red Cross employees in January 2009.
Saudi Arabia: Border guards foil drug smuggling attempt in Duba
Officers from the Border Guard in Duba, Tabuk governorate, foiled an attempt to smuggle 900,000 Captagon pills into Saudi territorial waters aboard a ship travelling from Egyptian territorial waters. The officers intercepted the boat after their electronic monitoring device detected the boat entering Saudi waters. Authorities arrested two Egyptians in the incident. Narcotics are frequently seized in Duba.
Sri Lanka: Colombo to go ahead with India oil joint-venture despite strike
Sri Lanka has said it will go ahead with a deal with India to jointly operate a strategic oil storage facility at the port district of Trincomalee, despite opposition from workers' unions. Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake has denounced the union strike to protest the deal, saying the deal has been in the making since 2002. The unions organised the strike amid fears the joint-venture would threaten jobs. At least 73 of the 99 oil storage tanks at Trincomalee will be managed under the 50-year joint-venture.
South Africa: Western Sahara dispute prompts vessel seizure in Port Elizabeth
Reuters reported that a Moroccan vessel carrying phosphate for OCP, the world's leading phosphate exporter, was seized at South Africa's Port Elizabeth under a civil maritime order. The order was issued after the Western Sahara Polisario movement complained that the Marshall Island-flagged NM Cherry Blossom had unlawfully transported cargo from Laayoune, which lies in territory claimed by both Morocco and the Polisario movement. Mohamed Khadad, a senior Polisario official, said that the case had been filed based on UN rulings, an EU court decision and to protect the disputed region's natural resources.
Taiwan: Beijing demands Taipei release detained fishermen following clash
China has called on Taiwan to release two Chinese fishermen who were detained following a clash with the Taiwanese coast guard on 6 May. The fishermen reportedly ignored radio warnings and entered Taiwanese waters near Penghu, also known as the Pescadores, prompting the Taiwanese coast guard to fire rubber bullets at them. The Chinese state media agency Xinhua has demanded Taiwan stop detaining mainland fishing boards "for no reason at all". Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway region and violations of maritime sovereignty frequently cause heightened tensions.
Turkey: Ammunition washes ashore in Sakarya province
According to the Anadolu Agency, local residents in Karasu, Sakarya province, alerted authorities to ammunition which washed ashore. Security forces were deployed to the beach after the discovery, although it was not immediately clear whether the ammunition presents a threat. The weapons were labelled in Cyrillic and officials believe they came from the naval intelligence vessel which sank off the Black Sea coast near Kilyos on 27 April.
Turkey: Gazprom to start laying pipes for Turkish Stream project
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom to start laying the subsea pipes needed for the Turkish Stream project. Although the project was initially announced in 2014, the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline project agreement between Turkey and Russia was signed on 10 October 2016, and ratified by Putin on 7 February. The pipeline will carry gas from Russia under the Black Sea to Turkey's Thrace region.
Venezuela: Robbers board carrier at Port of Pertigalete
Three robbers boarded a Singapore-flagged cement carrier berthed in the Port of Pertigalete at 0250 UTC hrs local time. The crew mustered and raised the alarm, prompting the robbers to flee without stealing anything.