Weekly Maritime Security Report

East Africa and the Indian Ocean


Yemen: Skiffs follow merchant vessel off Qusayir

17 May

A merchant vessel reported it was approached by seven skiffs, each with four to five persons on board at 0830 hrs local time 45 nm east south-east of Qusayir in the Gulf of Aden. The skiffs came within 1 nm of both port and starboard quarters and followed the vessels for 30 minutes before moving away. There were no reports of shots fired.


Yemen: Indian Navy confiscates weapons cache from dhows in Gulf of Aden

16 May

The Indian Navy boarded three suspicious dhows after a merchant vessel reported sighting the boats 135 nm northwest of Socotra Island in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). The naval forces seized a cache of weapons during their investigations.


PGI Analysis: The incidents mark the latest reports of piracy-related activity in the Gulf of Aden in recent months, following an increase in reports of suspicious approaches and four hijackings in the High Risk Area (HRA) since 13 March. Since the last reported hijacking on 4 April, there have been a series of attempted attacks against vessels, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, often resulting in exchanges of fire between pirates and embarked armed security teams. The ongoing presence of pirates with the intent to attack large commercial vessels in the HRA has caused concern among the international shipping community, as pirates continue to look to take advantage of vessels failing to implement effective counter piracy measures.

Southeast Asia


Indonesia: Robbers steal from chemical tanker at Dumai

20 May

Six robbers wearing masks and armed with long knives boarded a chemical tanker berthed at the MSSP Jetty, Lubuk Gaung Port in Dumai. Crew raised the alarm upon sighting the robbers, prompting the assailants to flee the vessel into their boat with ship’s properties. The incident was reported to local police.


PGI Analysis: Robbers often target vessels around Dumai, particularly in the anchorage area. The majority of incidents are non-violent with assailants easily deterred when sighted by crew members. There have however been several reports of robbers attacking and tying up crew members in order to steal ship’s stores at Dumai anchorage since mid-2016, underscoring the potential for further violent robberies targeting vessels in the region.


Indonesia: Speed boat approaches ship off North Sulawesi

16 May

An underway offshore supply ship was approached by a small speed boat at a distance of 30 metres at 1803 UTC some 26 nm southwest of Kepulauan Talaud North Sulawesi. The alarm was raised and crew mustered, including starting the fire pump to charge fire hoses. Upon seeing the alerted crew the boat aborted and moved away.


Philippines: Tug reports suspicious approach off Cacnipa

19 May

An underway offshore tug was chased by two speed boats at 1130 hrs UTC some 56 nm northwest of Cacnipa island. After the master increased speed, conducted evasive manoeuvres and activated fire hoses, the vessel managed to escape and all crew were reported safe.


PGI Analysis: The incidents were likely perpetrated by Islamist armed group Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), who are known to conduct kidnap-for-ransom attacks in the waters between the island of Borneo and the southern Philippines. Previous attacks have however clustered off the Sulu Archipelago and off Malaysia’s Sabah state, with the latest incidents indicating the group may have become more dispersed, as both incidents occurred at the northern and southern limits of the area of previous attacks in the region. PGI will continue to monitor the situation as it develops via the Risk Portal.


West Africa


Nigeria: Pirates kidnap six crew from cargo ship off Bonny Island

17 May

Armed pirates kidnapped six crew members from an underway Antigua and Barbuda-flagged general cargo ship at 1220 hrs local time, 33 nm southwest of Bonny Island. The remaining crew sailed to Bonny anchorage. It is unclear if anyone was injured in the attack and the Nigerian Navy is investigating the incident.


PGI Analysis: The attack marks the latest in a series of kidnap for ransom attacks targeting vessels off Nigeria. So far in 2017 there have been a total of 16 maritime security incidents off Nigeria, including four successful abductions, although many other incidents are likely to have gone unreported. Most of the attacks took place between 15-120 nm off Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta, where the majority of pirates are based.


Select Maritime News


China: Beijing, ASEAN agree draft framework for South China Sea code of conduct

18 May

Chinese and ASEAN representatives agreed a draft framework for code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea aimed at avoiding escalation of tensions and accidents between various naval forces. Meeting in the southern Chinese city of Guiyang, Guizhou province, the sides agreed rules to manage and control disputes, increase maritime cooperation, promote consultations of the code of conduct, and jointly maintain stability, according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry. The negotiators aim to have a final draft by mid-2017 which can be approved in the August meeting of ASEAN nations in Manila. China is engaged in ongoing disputes over the Paracel and Spratly islands as well as Scarborough Shoal.


China: Manila claims Hague ruling on South China Sea delayed reclamations

17 May

Philippine ambassador to China Jose Santiago Santa Romana told media ahead of a bilateral meeting on the disputed South China Sea that the ruling by The Hague in July 2016 against China’s claims to the Spratly Islands did succeed in delaying reclamation efforts by the Chinese for about a year. He said that while the verdict did little to dissuade Beijing to continue to pursue its claims to the disputed sea, it did lead to some concessions for fishing rights to the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Manila has launched official talks with Beijing on the dispute, while President Rodrigo Duterte has also called for resource-sharing between the claimants.


China: Beijing installs rocket launchers on disputed South China Sea island

17 May

According to a report by Chinese state newspaper Defence Times, the Chinese military has installed rocket launchers on Fiery Cross Reef, in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly islands. The report was published on the newspaper’s WeChat account and claimed that Norico CS/AR-1 55mm rocket launchers installed on the island have the capability to identify and attack enemy “combat divers” underwater. Fiery Cross Reef is occupied by Chinese forces but is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. China has built up military infrastructure on several disputed South China Sea islands, prompting protests and heightened tensions with the US, Manila and Hanoi.


Colombia: Explosions at shipyard kill six in Cartagena

17 May

Officials reported that two explosions at a shipyard in Cartagena killed six people and injured 21 others. The first explosion was reported at Cotecmar’s facility, and occurred while workers were repairing a freighter. Authorities said the circumstances surrounding the second explosion at Astivik’s facility were not immediately clear. Investigations have begun into the cause of the explosions and whether they were linked.


Cote d’Ivoire: ISMI holds cyber security training in Abidjan

22 May

The Inter-Regional Maritime Institute (ISMI) is set to hold a training session on combatting cyber-crime in Abidjan from 22 to 24 May. The training is set to be attended by some 30 auditors from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) countries. The training will address navy, coast guard, customs and government institutions to mitigate the rising threat from cybersecurity issues to maritime activity.


Cyprus: Eurogate to invest USD 33.4 mn in Limassol Port

17 May

Eurogate Container Terminal Limassol Ltd said it intends to invest USD 33.4 mn in the port to upgrade infrastructure and services, including two new crane bridges. Eurogate, which assumed management of the port in January, has already invested in 17 new straddle carriers and is expecting in 2018 two super-post panama crane bridges able to service ships of 21-containers wide.


Haiti: Storm kills seven in north

20 May

According to officials, a severe storm left seven people dead in northern Haiti. The severe weather also left around 19 fishermen missing after their vessel was reported missing of the southwestern coast. Maritime officials renewed a safety warning for those at sea.


Indonesia: Four soldiers die in training accident in South China Sea

17 May

Four Indonesian soldiers were killed and eight were injured in an accident during training exercises at the Natuna islands, in the disputed South China Sea. According to a military spokesperson, the soldiers were killed after they were hit by artillery fire during a rapid response exercise, and the military authorities have launched an investigation into how the anti-aircraft artillery system had been fired on a group of soldiers. Indonesia has been holding frequent military exercises near the Natuna Islands amid increased Chinese presence in the disputed waters since 2016. The military has engaged in occasional clashes with Chinese paramilitary fishing boats near the Natunas.


Japan: Tokyo scrambles jets against Chinese vessels, drone near disputed islands

19 May

Japan scrambled fighter jets after four Chinese coastguard vessels and a suspected drone aircraft entered disputed territory near the Senkaku islands, called Diaoyu in China. Two F-15 jets, one E-2C early warning aircraft and one AWACS surveillance aircraft were deployed, and it is unclear if the coastguard ships changed course after the move. Japan also lodged a formal diplomatic protest to China, to which Beijing responded by saying its ships have every right to operate in Chinese territorial waters. It is the 13th such intrusion recorded by the Japanese authorities since the beginning of 2017, but the first time a Chinese drone was deployed in the disputed area.


Kuwait: Coastguard clashes with armed Iraqi men

18 May

Kuwaiti coastguard personnel intercepted a vessel carrying four armed Iraqi men in the Khawr Abd Allah estuary, which currently lies in Kuwaiti territorial waters. Kuwaiti news said that the men had threatened the coastguardsmen and that one Kuwaiti officer and an Iraqi man had been slightly injured in the incident. The coastguard managed to seize the boat and arrest those on board. The maritime boundary between Kuwait and Iraqi remains a sensitive issue, as demonstrated by protests in February in southern Iraq over control of the Khor Abdallah waterway.


Malawi: Lilongwe to take Dodoma to court over Lake Malawi dispute

17 May

Malawi’s Foreign Minister Francis Kasaila announced the government is planning to take Tanzanian authorities to the International Court of Justice in The Hague regarding the long-running territorial dispute over Lake Malawi. Kasaila said Lilongwe has been committed to talks and peacefully resolving the dispute over the lake, which has been intensified by significant gas finds, but that it was now time for legal action. Malawi claims the entire northern half of the lake while Dodoma lays claim to half of the northern portion.


Panama: Authorities detain Moroccan phosphate carrier over Western Sahara dispute

18 May

Officials said that Panamanian authorities detained a vessel carrying a shipment of phosphate rock from the disputed Western Sahara region in Panama following a legal challenge by the Polisario separatist movement, which claims the independence of the region. The vessel was carrying phosphate for OCP, a major phosphate exporter, for the Canadian firm Agrium, which said that it did not anticipate any production interruptions as a result of the seizure. The carrier is the second stopped this month by authorities due to a legal challenge by the Polisario, after South African authorities detained a vessel in Port Elizabeth on 3 May.


Philippines: Manila denies Duterte claim that Xi threatened war over disputed sea

22 May

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has denied that China made threats against the Philippines during closed-door talks over the disputed South China Sea, after President Rodrigo Duterte claimed during a television interview that Chinese President Xi Jinping threatened war if Manila began drilling for offshore oil. The foreign secretary said conversations between the leaders were mutually respectful and focused on stabilising the region and preventing conflict. Duterte has faced criticism from lawmakers for his attempts to reduce tensions with Beijing over the contested Spratly islands and Scarborough Shoal. Two Supreme Court justices have also called for the government to file for international arbitration over the issue, despite China ignoring the last ruling made by The Hague.


Philippines: Chinese fighter jets intercept US aircraft near Scarborough Shoal

18 May

Two Chinese SU-30 fighter jets were deployed and intercepted a US WC-135 aircraft as it was conducting “freedom of navigation” operations near the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal, which has been occupied by Chinese forces since 2012. The US described the interception has “unprofessional” due to the manoeuvres by the Chinese jets as well as the speed and proximity of the aircraft. The US military authorities said the aircraft was carrying out a routine mission in accordance with international law. The US has used “freedom of navigation” operations by its Navy and Air Force in recent years to counter China’s claims to disputed waters also claimed by Manila and Vietnam.


Portugal: Authorities seize 10 tonnes of hashish from vessel in the Mediterranean

18 May

According to media reports, Portugal has seized 10 tonnes of hashish in an operation that involved the Portuguese navy and air force as well as Europol. The drugs were seized from a vessel headed to North Africa. Six individuals were arrested in the operation, including two Portuguese citizens.


The Gambia: Afreximbank to invest USD 500 mn in infrastructure, economy

16 May

President Adama Barrow announced the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) is due to invest up to USD 500 mn in Gambia’s tourism and agriculture sectors, as well as in infrastructure projects. Some of the funding will go towards expanding the country’s sea port and improving its rail links to increase the volume of goods transported to Senegal and Mali. The report comes amid concerns over alleged widespread fraud committed by former president Yahya Jammeh during his time in office between 1996 and January 2017.


United States: Court jails admiral for 18 months in bribery scandal

17 May

Former US Navy admiral Robert Gilbeau was sentenced to 18 months in prison for lying about receiving gifts from Leonard Glenn Francis, the owner of the foreign defence contractor at the centre of a massive bribery and fraud scandal. A US district judge said Gilbeau deleted documents and data files as he tried to conceal his dealings with Francis. Twenty current and former navy officials have been charged so far in the fraud and bribery investigation.


Venezuela: Robbery of tanker near Lecheria

18 May

Robbers boarded an anchored chemical tanker and stole the ship’s equipment and stores before escaping unnoticed between 0001 and 0530 hrs local time, some 4 nm west of Lecheria. The theft was noticed by crew on routine rounds.