Weekly Maritime Security Report

Southeast Asia

Malaysia: Armed assailants hijack fuel tanker, steal diesel off Kuala Terengganu

6 September

Some 13 armed pirates boarded a Thai-flagged product tanker, MGT 1, as it was underway from Rayong port and heading towards the Andaman Sea, 54 nm east of Kuala Terengganu at 2100 hrs local time on 6 September. The assailants arrived in two small boats before boarding the tanker and proceeded to force the crew to transfer 1 mn litres of diesel oil to a mother ship. The crew set off the Ship Security Alert System, prompting the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency to dispatch two ships and a helicopter, rescuing the tanker at 0400 hrs local time and apprehending 10 assailants while the other three fled on a boat. The tanker was then escorted to Kuala Terengganu for further investigation.

PGI Analysis: 

There have been no reports on what happened to the stolen fuel and the mother ship, or whether Malaysian forces were able to recover the stolen cargo. Although cargo theft targeting oil tankers in the region has declined since its peak in 2014-2015, attacks persist in the region and tanker operators are advised to take precautionary measures to guard against hijackings. The latest attack marks the second incidence of oil theft in the region in 2017, after armed pirates stole 1.5 mn litres of diesel fuel from a Thai tanker off Kuantan in the same area in June.

Malaysia: Armed assailants target tanker near Aur Island

7 September

Four assailants armed with a gun and knives boarded an underway liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker while the ship was around 35 nm south-southeast of Aur Island. The assailants stole property from the crew and the ship before fleeing. No injuries or abductions were reported.

PGI Analysis: 

Robbers typically target vessels at anchorages in Malaysia as they are easier to board, although the latest incident underscores the need for continued vigilance against armed robbers when underway in the region. Robbers are often armed in South East Asia and have increasingly resorted to violence to commit robberies on board vessels over the past year. 

West Africa

Guinea: Seven robbers board vessel at Conakry

8 September

A vessel reported it was boarded by seven robbers armed with knives and crowbars at around 0316 hrs local time at Conakry anchorage. The robbers attempted to kidnap the master, but left after 15 minutes after stealing the ship’s property and personal effects. The vessel and crew were reported safe.

PGI Analysis: 

Violent, armed robberies are sporadically reported both in the waters off Conakry and in the anchorage although many incidents are likely to go unreported. Criminals are often undeterred by basic security measures and vessels are advised to take additional precautions in Guinean waters. Robbers typically target crew’s personal belongings, although cargo thefts are occasionally reported.

Select Maritime News

Bangladesh: Dhaka revives plans to settle Rohingya refugees on Bay of Bengal island

5 September

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s political advisor, HT Imam, has told local media that the government is reviving plans to re-settle hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees on an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal, amid a major refugee crisis due to a Myanmar Army crackdown in Rakhine. The advisor said that while Bangladeshi border forces have tried to stop the Rohingya inflows, some 125,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since 25 August, joining more than 400,000 Rohingya already in Bangladesh as illegal migrants. The government has requested aid agencies to help shift the Rohingya to makeshift camps on Thengar Char island. The island is two hours by boat from the mainland and regularly experiences floods from June to September, highlighting risks to the refu

China: Military shoots down missiles in exercise amid Pyongyang tensions

6 September

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army conducted drills in the early hours of the morning on 6 September which involved shooting down incoming missiles, amid heightened tensions with North Korea over a series of nuclear and missile tests since 2016. The drill began at midnight and involved missiles shot down over Bohai Bay, according to military news media. The exercise came two days after North Korea conducted its biggest nuclear test yet on 3 September. Local media have said that the drill shows China is prepared and able to stop any country which threatens stability in the region.

Congo, DRC: Mai Mai kidnap 15 fishermen on Lake Edouard

5 September

An unknown number of Mai Mai militiamen kidnapped 15 fishermen on Lake Edouard. They were reportedly taken into the forest by members of Charles Kabule’s Mai Mai militia. According to local sources, the kidnappers asked for a ransom for the release of the fishermen. Mai Mai militia regularly attack fishermen on the lake for ransoms or to request they pay a tax to fish on the lake.

Cote d’Ivoire: International tribunal to rule on border dispute with Accra

10 September

The International Maritime Tribunal announced it would rule on the territorial dispute between Yamoussoukro and Accra on 23 September. The two countries are disputing the delimitation of the maritime border in the Atlantic Ocean. Natural resources off the coast of the two countries are the primary factor driving the dispute.

Cote d’Ivoire: Port regulations, insecurity prevent Abidjan, Bamako transport

7 September

According to truck drivers cited in local media sources, port regulations at Abidjan port and insecurity on the Abidjan – Mali route have led to decreased levels of transport along the route. The truck drivers said that regulations stipulating that drivers need to stay within Ivorian territory for four days after customs formalities at the port were causing delays. The truckers also criticised increasing levels of armed banditry in northern Cote d’Ivoire on routes leading into Mali. The truck drivers said that transport companies were therefore using the Bamako – Dakar route despite poorer road conditions.

Dominican Republic: Ports to reinitiate operations after passage of Hurricane Irma

8 September

The Dominican Port Authority reported that operations will be initiated at the ports of Haina, Caucedo, San Souci and Santo Domingo from 0800 hrs local time after they were closed due to the passage of Hurricane Irma. The ports of Manzanillo, Samana and Puerto Plata, which were worst affected by the storm, remained closed. The hurricane passed over the north of the country on 7 September, prompting the evacuation of more than 5,500 people.

Ghana: Authorities repair digital system at Tema port after delays

11 September

The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) announced it had repaired the digital system recently installed to increase the efficiency and speed of the clearing of goods at Tema port. Freight forwarders protested on 7 September against the delays in clearing goods due to glitches in the new digital system at customs. According to the GRA, the delays were also due to the staff’s lack of training on the new system. The system, which was put in place on 1 September, was an attempt by the port authority to tackle corruption by digitalising the process of clearing goods, as well as reduce the time goods spent in clearing from two weeks to four hours.

Iran: Military vessel confronts US ship in Gulf

9 September

According to Iranian media, an Iranian military vessel confronted a US Navy vessel in the Gulf and warned it to stay away from a damaged fishing boat, which had sent out a distress signal. The exact location of the incident was not immediately confirmed. The incident comes after a series of close military encounters amid rising tensions in the Gulf in recent months. In August, an Iranian drone came within 100 metres of a US warplane landing on a carrier.

Libya: Benghazi port to reopen on 1 October

8 September

The port of Benghazi is to reopen on 1 October after a three-year closure, local authorities said. The port sustained major damage during the conflict in Benghazi, which pitted Islamist militants against forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar. In early July, Haftar announced the successful completion of the three-year military offensive to retake the city.

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur offers temporary shelter for persecuted Myanmar Rohingya

8 September

The Malaysian Coast Guard has told local media that it will not turn away Rohingya Muslims fleeing from escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and said it is willing to offer temporary shelter to the Rohingya refugees. Malaysia is likely to see the arrival of more vessels carrying Rohingya refugees in the coming weeks and months due to the renewed violence in Myanmar, according to the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency. Malaysia is already home to 100,000 Rohingya refugees. At least 250,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh since 25 August due to a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar Army, and there are tens of thousands of refugees who are reportedly stranded on boats in the Naf River between the two countries.

Myanmar: Mediterranean rescue ship to relocate to Rakhine amid Rohingya crisis

5 September

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a Mediterranean maritime rescue group, has announced it is relocating its flagship vessel from Malta to the waters off Myanmar’s Rakhine State to help with the ongoing refugee crisis there. Some 87,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since 25 August amid a Myanmar Army crackdown, and tens of thousands of Rohingya are believed to be stranded in the Naf River between the countries as Bangladeshi forces attempt to prevent further inflows. The MOAS ship Phoenix has helped save 40,000 refugees from North Africa attempting to reach Europe via a dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Nigeria: Washington to boost maritime cooperation with Abuja

8 September

The commander of US Naval Forces Africa is to meet with the Nigerian Chief of Naval Staff in a bid to boost maritime collaboration and the naval bilateral relationship, according to Nigerian online newspaper the Vanguard. The US Embassy and Consulate in Nigeria announced in a statement on its website that the visit would enable the US commander to discuss with Nigerian counterparts how Abuja could contribute to enhancing maritime stability in the region. The Nigerian navy has faced significant security challenges along its 725 km coastline, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, which has large oil and gas reserves and is frequently targeted by pirates and oil thieves.

Qatar: Doha says Hamad port to help deflect impact of Saudi, Arab blockade

5 September

Qatari Transport Minister Jassim bin Saif Al-Sulaiti said that the USD 7.4 bn Hamad port in the southeast would help the country minimise the impact of a three-month boycott of Doha by Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. The port, which began operating in December 2016, will be Qatar’s largest container port and will provide commercial access to some 150 countries, according to authorities. Hamad will also establish links with regional ports in Oman and Kuwait, as well as Turkey to India and Pakistan. The port has a capacity of 1.7 mn tonnes of general freight and 1 mn tonnes of grain, according to Mwani Qatar, the country’s port management company.

United Kingdom: MoD unveils new national ship-building strategy

6 September

The Ministry of Defence has unveiled plans to create a new national ship-building industry to benefit UK shipyards. The government proposes to build at least five Type 31e frigates, each at around USD 325 mn, and share ship construction among British shipyards. Some of the frigates would be warships for the Royal Navy, while others would be built for export to foreign military partners, according to defence secretary Michael Fallon. The new frigates would be ready for service by 2023. GMB, the union for staff in the shipbuilding industry, has cautiously welcomed the proposals. Others are doubtful that the cost of each frigate can realistically be capped at USD 325 mn.

Vietnam: Hanoi protests Chinese military drills in South China Sea

5 September

Vietnam has issued a strong condemnation of a Chinese military live-fire drill in the disputed South China Sea, which was conducted from late August to 2 September. The drills focused on the disputed Paracel islands, where Vietnamese and Chinese forces have repeatedly clashed in small skirmishes and boat-rammings since 2012. Tensions have been heightened since July when Chinese pressure led to a halting of oil and gas exploration commissioned by Vietnam in the disputed waters.