Weekly Maritime Security Report

East Africa and the Indian Ocean

Somalia: Maritime forces kill Iranian captain off Puntland

6 October

Local officials reported that Puntland Maritime Police forces shot dead an Iranian captain of a vessel thought to be illegally fishing off the town of Ras Hafun in Puntland state. The incident occurred when two boats refused orders to stop and attempted to evade Puntland forces, who were attempting to check whether they had the correct permits to fish in the area. Two tonnes of fish were seized from one of the boats, which is being held at Bosaso port while investigations are underway.

PGI Analysis: Illegal fishing is prevalent off the coast of Somalia and is often conducted by Iranian, Yemeni and South Korean trawlers, although European vessels, including from Spain, are also engaged in illicit fishing. Coastal communities have said the practice has motivated piracy in the region, as it has deprived many of their livelihoods. However, pirate groups’ targeting of commercial vessels, such as the March hijacking of the Aris 13 bunkering tanker, indicates they are primarily motivated by financial gain, although often use the prevalence of illegal fishing in the region to garner local support.

Yemen: Skiffs approach vessel off Gulf of Aden

7 October

A mother vessel reported it was approached by four dark-coloured-hulled skiffs with four or five people on board at speed to within 0.7 nm. The skiffs then turned away and crew and vessel were reported safe.
Yemen: Indian navy thwarts piracy attempt in Gulf of Aden

6 October

The Indian navy foiled a piracy attempt in the Gulf of Aden at around 1230 hrs local time. A special forces unit on board the INS Trishul reportedly prevented 12 armed pirates from attacking the Indian-flagged 85,000 tonne bulk carrier vessel Jag Amar. The officers detained the assailants and recovered a Kalashnikov rifle and ammunition. The Jag Amar was on its way to Saudi Arabia. The INS Trishul is on a long-term anti-piracy deployment in the Gulf of Aden.

Yemen: Suspicious vessel reported in the Gulf of Aden

6 October

A merchant vessel sighted two suspicious skiffs at 1000 hrs local time in the Gulf of Aden near Point B of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). Two white-hulled skiffs with ladders reportedly approached the merchant vessel within 1.2 nm before turning away. Both the crew and the vessel were unharmed.

PGI Analysis: Reports of suspicious activity and approaches by skiffs have increased in the Gulf of Aden since the hijacking of the Aris 13 in March 2017, raising concerns that vessels without armed security could be vulnerable to further hijackings. Many vessels have reported exchanging fire with gunmen or sighting ladders on board the suspect skiffs, indicating criminal intent.

Select Maritime News

Bangladesh: Border forces destroy 30 boats used to smuggle Rohingya from Rakhine

5 October

Bangladeshi border forces have destroyed 30 wooden boats used by local captains to smuggle Rohingya refugees and narcotics from Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The vessels were seized and the captains arrested after bringing more than 700 refugees across the Naf River to Cox’s Bazaar. They were also found in possession of more than 100,000 methamphetamine pills. At least 39 Rohingya boat captains living in Bangladesh have been jailed since August for smuggling the refugees, who are fleeing a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar Army. Some 5,000 Rohingya are entering Bangladesh every day.

Japan: Chinese fishing boat collides with Hong Kong tanker off Oki islands

5 October

The Japanese Coast Guard launched a search-and-rescue operation after a Chinese fishing boat collided with a Hong Kong tanker off western Japan, leaving at least 12 crew members missing. The collision was reported early on 5 October by the Chinese vessel, which requested assistance from the Japanese. The collision took place about 400 km north of the Oki islands in the Sea of Japan. The Hong Kong 63,000 tonne tanker was identified as Bright Oil Lucky and had 21 crew members who are all safe. The cause of the accident remains unclear.

Malaysia: Authorities extend Sabah maritime curfew until 13 October

3 October

The Sabah Police Commissioner announced that the 1800 hrs to 0600 hrs local time curfew has been extended until 13 October in Sabah waters to mitigate the cross-border threat from Islamist militants Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Residents of the districts of Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran are to remain indoors and are prohibited from entering the waters overnight to facilitate security operations against ASG.

Mali: Unknown armed men attack boat in Mopti region

5 October

Unknown armed men attacked a boat near Kouakourou in Mopti region. The boat reportedly belonged to the Malian Company of Navigation (COMANAV) in charge of transport between the south and north of the country on its various waterways. According to local media sources, the suspected terrorists shot at the boat but failed to stop it. No casualties were reported. Mopti region is home to Amadaou Koufa’s armed group the Macina Liberation Front, now allied with Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM). On 29 September, suspected terrorists besieged Kouakourou and gained control over movement in and out of the village.

Myanmar: Boat carrying Rohingya refugees capsizes in Naf River, killing 12

8 October

At least 12 people died when a boat carrying about 100 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine State capsized at around 2200 hrs local time in the Naf River, while trying to reach Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar. Tens of Rohingya remain missing and it is likely the death toll will increase. The dead included 10 children, and officials at the Bangladesh Border Guard forces said 40 of the travellers were adult Rohingya who were fleeing their villages in Myanmar amid a brutal crackdown on the minority by the Myanmar Army. Border guards rescued 11 of the Rohingya from the capsized boat. At least 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August, and thousands are believed to have died in clashes with the Myanmar Army or by trying to reach Bangladesh.

Nicaragua: Death toll from Hurricane Nate rises to 30 people

9 October

The death toll from Hurricane Nate in Central America rose to 25 people. Flooding and landslides caused by the hurricane killed 16 people in Nicaragua, 10 in Costa Rica, two in Honduras and two in El Salvador. Local media sources reported that at least 400,000 people were without access to running water in Costa Rica and thousands remained in shelters. The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical depression as it continued its course through Alabama and Mississippi. In the US, the ports of Mobile, Alabama, Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi, Pensacola, Florida, and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway between mile markers 45 and 207 remained closed on 9 October.

Portugal: Large drugs seizure occurs near Madeira

6 October

Authorities seized 3.7 tonnes of cocaine, estimated at a value of USD 260 mn, from a Comoros-flagged vessel in the Atlantic Ocean, between Portugal’s Madeira and the Azores islands. According to the BBC, officers uncovered 165 packages of cocaine underneath the boat’s cooking area. The vessel was towed to the Spanish port of Cadiz, allegedly after receiving intelligence from the UK’s National Crime Agency. The operation involved UK and Spanish law enforcement under the coordination of the Lisbon-based Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics.


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