Weekly Maritime Security Report 28 Feb 2017
Philippines: Reports indicate ASG behead German national
The military announced they were investigating reports that Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf (ASG) had beheaded German national Jeurgen Kantner in a video disseminated on the internet. The reports come after the deadline for the ransom payment of USD 600,000 passed on 26 February. Kantner was abducted and his wife was killed in an attack on their yacht in Malaysian waters off Sulu in November 2016.
PGI Analysis: ASG has increasingly targeted large commercial vessels in the Sulu and Celebes sea since October 2016, after commencing kidnappings at sea in March 2016, although tourists and foreign nationals remain a core target for the group. ASG are known to be one of the most violent Islamist groups operating in the region, and routinely behead abductees after their ransom deadlines pass. Local reports have indicated that shipping firms have been paying ransom demands to recover crew members.
Indonesia: Robbers board tug off Batam
Five robbers armed with knives boarded a tug anchored off Batu Ampar Anchorage, Batam at 0355 hrs local time. Crew noticed the assailants on CCTV cameras and raised the alarm, prompting the robbers to flee the vessel empty-handed.
PGI Analysis: Robberies targeting vessels off Indonesia are common, and they are typically non-violent and opportunistic. Assailants often conduct robberies overnight to take advantage of poor visibility, underscoring the need for sustained vigilance by crew.
Nigeria: Assailants board, vandalise tanker off Forcados
According to an updated report, crew on board an asphalt tanker reported that it was boarded by armed pirates at 0830 hrs local time, 33 nm west-southwest of Forcados, Delta state, prompting crew to retreat into the citadel and request naval assistance. The assailants proceeded to damage equipment and steal ship's properties, and fled before naval teams arrived at the scene.
Nigeria: Gunmen kidnap three from tanker off the coast of Bonny Island
According to an updated report, two unidentified skiffs reportedly approached and boarded an LPG tanker 60 nm off the coast of Bonny Island at 2015 hrs local time. Most of the crew retreated into the citadel, although three remain missing and are presumed to have been kidnapped. The incident is the latest in a series of kidnappings at sea off Nigeria after pirates abducted eight crewmembers of a merchant vessel in the region on 6 January.
PGI Analysis: Heavily armed pirates are known to operate off Nigeria's coastline, particularly off the Niger Delta, with the aim of kidnapping crew for ransom, indicating the 19 February attack was likely a failed kidnapping. The incidents demonstrate the importance of swift responses by crew to prevent such abductions, as any sailors who fail to barricade themselves are vulnerable to being kidnapped in the event of a boarding at sea. Nigerian pirates are known to be among the world's most heavily armed and are quick to use force against crew members. Abductees are typically unharmed following such kidnappings as pirates seek to extract ransom for their release, although in some incidents crew have been injured in crossfire during abductions.
Select Maritime News
Bangladesh: Industrial accident kills sailor at Chittagong Port
Hot water splashed from a cracked engine pipe killed a Ukrainian sailor in a ship docked at Chittagong Port. The incident occurred in the ship's engine room. There was no indication of disruption to port activities as a result of the incident.
Bangladesh: Chittagong port faces container congestion
The absence of adequate container-handling equipment has led to severe congestion at Bangladesh's Chittagong port, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the country's international trade. The number of containers brought in by single importers parked in the port yards was as high as 32,000 TEUs (twenty equivalent units) earlier in February, against the port's capacity of 24,105 TEUs, the Daily Star newspaper reported. Freight owners also blamed the congestion on delays in cargo assessments by customs officials. Government agencies have said they are working to resolve the congestion and expect the situation to normalise within a week.
Chile: Authorities seize 397 kg of cocaine at San Antonio port
Counter-narcotics authorities confiscated 397 kg of cocaine that arrived on a boat at San Antonio port from Ecuador. The shipment was due to travel to Jordan. One Chilean and one Peruvian were detained in the operation.
China: Report claims Beijing can house missiles in South China Sea structure
China has nearly finished building tens of structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea that appear designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, two US officials told Reuters. The concrete structures with retractable roofs on Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reef appeared to be 20 meters long and 10 meters high, according to the officials. A Chinese foreign ministry official did not confirm or deny the report but said that Beijing had the right to install appropriate defence systems on its territory. The development has raised concerns of a possible hardline response from the US under President Donald Trump, who has been very critical of China's policies.
Colombia: Government terminates Odebrecht contract to dredge Magdalena River
Colombia's government has begun the termination of an USD 862 mn contract to restore navigability to the Magdalena River, which was led by Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht. The decision was made after Odebrecht, which is facing allegations of corruption in the country, failed to provide funding or cede the concession to another company. Dredging of the river will now be carried out by government public works.
Guatemala: Authorities block entry to ship belonging to Dutch NGO
The army detained a boat carrying a supply of abortion pills, and prevented it from picking up women seeking an abortion. The boat, which is operated by Dutch non-governmental organisation Women on Waves, was taken into military custody after landing at a private pier at San Jose port. The organisation provides free abortion services for women beyond the territorial waters of countries where abortions are illegal.
India: Report says Ennore oil spill has damaged volunteers' health
A fact-finding mission comprising independent experts into the 28 January oil spill that occurred at Kamarajar Port in Ennore, Tamil Nadu state, found that residents and volunteers engaged in the clean-up efforts were at risk of long-term health hazards such as leukaemia. The report said that those engaged in cleaning up the oil spill lacked basic equipment and safety gear, while oil collected was deposited for days in open bins, raising the risk of mass exposure to harmful chemicals. Local authorities have faced criticism for their poor handling of the oil spill, which has raised concerns of snowballing into a major ecological disaster.
Indonesia: Jakarta considers joint patrols with Australia in South China Sea
Indonesian President Joko Widodo told The Australian newspaper that he would consider conducting joint patrols with Australia in the contested South China Sea, as long as it did not further inflame tensions with Beijing. He is set to discuss the joint patrols with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during his visit to Canberra on 25-26 February. Indonesia has traditionally taken a neutral stance on China's territorial disputes, though increased presence of Chinese paramilitary fishermen near the Natuna islands has increased tensions with Jakarta since 2016 and prompted Widodo to order a military build-up on the islands.
Italy: Coastguard says 2,500 migrants rescued in three days
The Italian Coastguard announced that it rescued almost 2,500 migrants in the three days since 20 February. Authorities report that there have been more than 10,700 sea arrivals since the beginning of 2017. The number outpaces the arrivals for the same period in 2016, which was a record breaking year. Doctors without Borders (MSF) says the situation is worse than ever for the sea route into Europe.
Philippines: Manila claims Beijing has promised not to build on disputed shoal
Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay told local media that President Xi Jinping promised Manila to not build on the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Yasay said Xi made the promise during a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Beijing in October 2016. Relations between the countries have been damaged by China's construction work on the disputed Spratly islands, with many islands and reefs now displaying military infrastructure including aircraft hangers and runways. Ties have improved since Duterte came to power in June 2016.
United Kingdom: Storm Doris leaves one dead in West Midlands, disrupts transport
Storm Doris hit the UK, causing road and rail disruption across large parts of the country, with winds hitting 141 kph. One woman in the West Midlands died after suffering severe head injuries from falling debris and 2,700 homes and businesses in Northern Ireland were without electricity. The port of Liverpool was closed because of the storm on 23 February.
United Kingdom: WW2 bomb prompts evacuation of Portsmouth harbour
A 226 kg WW2 bomb discovered under Portsmouth harbour prompted the evacuation of nearby buildings, as well as the cancellation of trains and ferries. The bomb was reportedly discovered in the early hours of 22 February during dredging work for new aircraft carriers. Unexploded bombs periodically cause disruption in the UK.
United States: Tanker operator to pay USD 2 mn fine for polluting
Tanker operator Aegean Shipping Management will pay a USD 2 mn fine for illegally discharging oily bilge waste water from a chemical tanker in 2015, violating the US Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The vessel's operator, owner and three engineers were indicted over the case and the captain was found guilty of making misrepresentations to the US Coast Guard, which is permitted to board foreign vessels in US waters to check compliance with environmental regulations.