Weekly Maritime Security Report

Malaysia: Assailants board unmanned rig in Singapore Straits

12 October

Five assailants in two wooden crafts approached and boarded an unmanned rig while it was being towed at 0820 hrs local time in the western Singapore Straits. The tug master raised the alarm and reported the incident to local authorities. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency was deployed to the scene although the assailants had fled the rig before they arrived. Both the vessel and crew were reported safe.

PGI Analysis: The motive behind the boarding remains unconfirmed but the incident comes amid growing concerns over oil theft in the region. On 2 October, the Indonesian Navy’s Western Fleet arrested 15 alleged pirates in six wooden boats in the Singapore Strait. The pirates were thought to be targeting a tugboat with the intention of stealing 19 gallons of diesel. Oil cargo theft was previously common in waters in Southeast Asia however reports have declined since mid-2015 due to a regional crackdown on the fuel smuggling rings responsible.

Philippines: Authorities warn of ASG kidnapping plans in Sabah waters

10 October

Philippine intelligence warned of plans by Abu-Sayyaf Group (ASG) to conduct kidnapping attacks in the Sabah coastal area in the Tawi-Tawi-Sabah waters. ASG reportedly prepared a blue coloured speed boat to conduct the attacks, which was positioned near Parang, Sulu Archipelago. According to the reports, the group’s primary targets were Korean nationals.

PGI Analysis: ASG has kidnapped tens of Malaysian and Indonesian seamen from the Sulu and Celebes Seas since March 2016, but activity has declined in recent months due to increased maritime security operations. Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia have conducted joint maritime patrols since June 2017

Nigeria: Eight gunmen board supply vessel off Brass

11 October

Eight unknown armed men aboard a speed boat attacked and boarded a supply vessel at 0920 hrs local time approximately 21 nm south of Brass. The assailants reportedly stole equipment and personal property while the crew was mustered in the citadel. The robbers escaped when a security vessel approached their position. The vessel and its crew were reported safe.

PGI Analysis: Kidnap for ransom attacks occur regularly in the waters off the Niger Delta region. The pirates likely would have abducted crew members in the attack if personnel had not barricaded themselves in the citadel. The supply vessel was likely targeted as it is easy to board due to its low freeboard and the report indicates the vessel did not have armed security leaving it vulnerable.

Select Maritime News

China: Beijing protests US Navy sail-by in South China Sea

11 October

China’s foreign ministry has lodged an official protest with the US after a US Navy destroyer conducted a “freedom of navigation” operation near disputed islands in the South China Sea on 10 October. The US destroyer approached within 12 nm of an artificial island built by the Chinese in the Paracel islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and are a hotspot of tensions between the countries. Beijing said that the US violated both Chinese and international law in its operation. It is the fourth “freedom of navigation” operation conducted by the US since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Gabon: Authorities inaugurate new port in Owendo

14 October

Authorities officially opened the new extended sea port in Owendo, in the outskirts of Libreville. The new port has an extended berth of 600 m capable of servicing multiple vessels simultaneously. The port’s capacity has been increased to 150,000 containers and 3 mn tonnes of cargo per year. The USD 300 mn port expansion was built by Singaporean group Olam and is partly managed by French logistics firm Bolloré. The port has been partly operational since June.

Libya: Authorities close Tobruk, redirects vessels through Benghazi

13 October

Eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar has ordered the closure of the port of Tobruk to all international imports and exports. All international shipping will be redirected through Benghazi, according to local media. Tobruk will reportedly remain open as a local port, and one media report noted that oil shipments going through Tobruk’s Hariga terminal would not be affected by the change. No official reason for the decision was announced. The port of Benghazi was reopened on 1 October 2017 after a three-year closure.

Libya: Officials claim attacked tanker arrives in Malta

12 October

According to statements from Russian officials, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker, Goeast, which was attacked by Libyan coastguard forces off the coast of Abu Kammash on 7 October over alleged fuel smuggling arrived in Malta. Earlier reports had indicated the vessel capsized following the attack. Goeast was hit by coastguard fire twice, resulting in damage to its engine room and fuel tanks and causing it to list. Russian officials denied allegations of fuel smuggling, and claimed that there had been financial issues between the Swiss company which chartered the tanker and Libyan entities.

Libya: Migrant vessel sinks off Zawiya

12 October

Local media said that a vessel carrying 25 migrants and refugees sank off the coast of Libya at Zawiya at around 0200 hrs local time. Officials said that the boat set off from al-Harsha and sunk around 20 minutes into its journey. Only six people were rescued following the incident and an unconfirmed number of people remain missing. Human smuggling groups often put migrants and refugees on unseaworthy vessels in Libya, meaning vessels frequently sink near the coast of Libya.

Malaysia: Police extends sea curfew in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone

13 October

The maritime curfew which was scheduled to end on 13 October 2017 has been extended to 29 October 2017, police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din said. The curfew covers waters off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran districts. The curfew prohibits movement in these areas from 1800 hrs to 0600 hrs local time, and aims to prevent the intrusion of terrorists.

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila conduct first joint air patrol over Sulu Sea

12 October

The militaries of Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia conducted their first joint air patrol over the Sulu Sea in an effort to counter a rise in Islamist militancy, which has deteriorated maritime security there since early 2016. Malaysia’s defence minister said the joint effort was necessary given the widespread nature of the security threat presented by Philippine Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, which has kidnapped tens of Malaysian and Indonesian seamen from the Sulu and Celebes Seas since March 2016. The three countries have also introduced joint maritime patrols in June.

Morocco: Polisario complaint threatens EU fishing agreement talks

12 October 

A complaint by a British pro-Polisario group, the Western Sahara Campaign, could delay planned talks between Rabat and the EU over a fishing agreement, due to begin in 14 days. The campaign said that fishing companies operating off Western Sahara should negotiate with Polisario, not Rabat. The European Court of Justice must issue a verdict on the complaint before negotiations can begin.

Somalia: EU anti-piracy mission trains Galmadug Coast Guard

13 October

Spanish sailors with the EU’s anti-piracy mission in Somalia, Operation Atalanta, have been working with the Galmadug Coast Guard (GCG) to offer training on board EU vessel ESPS Rayo. The sailors provided security and medical training to the GCG in order to support the strengthening of maritime security in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. The Gulf of Aden has seen an uptick in pirate activity in recent months after the hijacking of the Aris 13 bunkering tanker in March.

Somalia: Update: Tehran protests over attack on fishermen off Puntland

12 October

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi denounced Puntland’s maritime security force for opening fire on an Iranian fishing vessel accused of illegal fishing in Somali waters on 6 October, raising tensions between the two countries. One fisherman died in the incident. Qassemi said Tehran was following up on the issue. Iranian fishermen are often accused of illegal fishing off Somalia.

Sri Lanka: Navy arrests five Indian nationals for illegal fishing

12 October

The Sri Lankan navy arrested five Indian fishermen from the state of Tamil Nadu for encroaching on the country’s territorial waters. The navy also seized their boat. Another group of Indian fishermen were reportedly chased away at gunpoint by Sri Lankan authorities. The incidents follow the arrest of 10 Indian fishermen on 8 October on similar charges. Sri Lanka routinely arrests Tamil fishermen from India for encroachment due to a contested maritime boundary between both countries.

Turkey: Ankara closes ports to vessels from Crimea

13 October

According to Russian daily Kommersant, Turkey has forbidden its ports to accept vessels from Crimea. This has been corroborated by a statement from the Chamber of Shipping for the Istanbul, Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. Ships that have been determined to come from the Crimea region or ports will not be granted entry, without exception and regardless of owner or flag. The statement cites precautionary measures related to Turkish foreign policy as a motivation for the move. Crimea has been subjected to sanctions by various governments following Moscow’s annexations of the peninsula in 2014.

Turkey: Ankara lifts ban on Turkish-flagged ferries sailing to Greece

12 October

The Turkish transport ministry has lifted restrictions on passenger ferries – wooden boats carrying passengers – sailing to Greece from Turkey. The ban on commercial yachts shorter than 24 m, however, will remain in place. The transport ministry had banned Turkish-flagged commercial yachts and passenger ferries from sailing to Greece from 25 September, over fears that Athens was conducting too many inspections and confiscations of Turkey-flagged vessels.

Turkey: Ankara to begin deep drilling in Mediterranean in 2018

11 October

The energy minister has announced that Turkey will conduct its first hydrocarbon drilling in the Mediterranean later in 2017 and its first deep drilling activity in 2018. The minister said that the government intended to open wells in both Turkish and Cypriot waters, with drilling also to be carried out in the Black Sea. The announcement follows Turkish seismic exploration in two areas in the Mediterranean and two in the Black Sea that began in April.

Yemen: CMA CGM alters congestion charges at Aden, Hodeidah ports

13 October

Shipping company CMA CGM issued a statement saying it was increasing the Port Congestion Surcharge (PCS) at Hodeidah port from 15 October 2017 due to ongoing difficulties faced for Hodeidah cargo. The PCS is set at USD 250 per twenty-foot equivalent unit. The statement further noted that the PCE would be removed for Aden from the same date.

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