Weekly Maritime Security Report

Maritime Security Report highlights key industry-specific incidents covered by PGI’s team of risk analysts during the past week:

Yemen: Pirate attack wounds three off Socotra

24 October

An Iranian-flagged fishing vessel was attacked around 41 nm southeast of Socotra island in the Red Sea. The Iranian coast guard alerted international naval forces who provided assistance. Three crew members were injured and treated by US personnel who arrived on the scene.

PGI Analysis: The nature of the attack and those responsible was not confirmed in reports, though some sources indicate the vessel was attacked by pirates. It is possible the attack was related to either arms smuggling to the Houthi rebel group in Yemen or illegal fishing in the region. Iranian fishers are known to regularly fish without permits in Somali waters, angering local coastal communities who accuse them of depriving them of their livelihoods. Illegal fishing was a key driving force behind the emergence of pirate groups in the region before such groups went on to target commercial vessels in kidnap for ransom attacks between 2008-2012. There has been an increase in piracy in the High-Risk Area over 2017 since the hijacking of the Aris 13 bunkering tanker in March, and fishing vessels have also been targeted in recent months.

Yemen: Boat towing skiff approaches vessel off al-Ghaydah

24 October

A merchant vessel reported that a suspicious boat towing a skiff came within 0.3 nm of it at 0225 hrs local time while it was transiting the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), south of al-Ghaydah. The vessel altered course and the crew mustered, prompting the boat to move away.

PGI Analysis: Pirates previously regularly used a faster boat alongside a skiff to conduct kidnap attacks at sea off the Horn of Africa during the 2008-2012 piracy epidemic, indicating the assailants may have been looking to hijack the vessel. Suspicious approaches are often reported off Yemen, although assailants are typically deterred by embarked armed security teams and evasive action.

Indonesia: Armed robbers steal engine parts from tanker off Batam Island

29 October

Five perpetrators armed with knives stole engine parts from a tanker in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme, 6.5 nm northeast of Terumbu Betata, Batam Island. The robbers tied up the duty oiler in the engine room during the incident and then escaped into a small boat which proceeded in a southerly direction. The master raised the alarm on discovering the incident and reported it to the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System. The crew and vessel were both reported as safe after the incident.

Indonesia: Armed robbers steal ship’s properties at Cilacap Anchorage

26 October

Four robbers armed with knives boarded an LPG tanker anchored at Cilacap Anchorage at 0320 hrs local time and stole ship’s stores. Duty crew noticed the robbers and raised the alarm and crew mustered, prompting the assailants to flee with their stolen goods.

Philippines: Robbers target container ship at Manila anchorage

30 October

Three robbers stole items from a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship anchored at Manila South Harbour anchorage at 2315 hrs local time. Crew sighted the robbers during routine rounds, prompting them to flee in a motor banca.

PGI Analysis: Petty thefts are often reported off the Philippines and Indonesia, although incidents on underway vessels are more rare as robbers typically target ships at anchorages as they are easier to board. Most incidents are non-violent, as robbers are usually armed for self-protection, although there have been several instances where crew were assaulted and tied up to enable robbers to steal ship’s stores. 

São Tomé and Príncipe: LPG tanker reports suspicious approach by five speedboats

27 October

A Malta-flagged liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker reported that five speedboats approached the tanker at 1717 hrs local time, 34 nm northwest of São Tomé and Príncipe. The boats, each with one or two people on board, followed the tanker during anti-piracy measures, approaching up to 300 metres. The boats then broke off their pursuit. The crew and tanker were reported safe. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is common, and is largely perpetrated by Niger Delta-based pirates.

Nigeria: Update: Pirates fire on supply vessel off Bonny Island

25 October

Fifteen pirates on board two speedboats attacked an India-flagged supply vessel at 1055 hrs local time, 31 nm off the coast of Bonny Island. Soldiers aboard a Nigerian Navy escort vessel returned fire, injuring an unspecified number of people. The pirates aborted the attack. The supply vessel and crew were reported safe.

Nigeria: Pirates kidnap six from merchant vessel off the coast of Bonny Island

24 October

A group of eight pirates kidnapped six crew members, including the captain, from the Liberia-flagged merchant vessel DEMETER off the coast of Bonny Island. The International Sea Guardian agency said the attack occurred at 0700 hrs local time. The DEMETER is owned by German shipping company Peter Doehle Group. There were no reports on whether the pirates had issued ransom demands.

Nigeria: Supply vessel, pirates exchange fire off Rivers state

23 October

Some 15 pirates armed with assault rifles and machine guns on board two speed boats opened fire on an India-flagged supply vessel while it was underway 31 nm southwest of Bonny Fairway Buoy off Rivers state. The supply vessel’s embarked security team returned fire, injuring several of the pirates. Both the vessel and crew were reported as safe after the incident.

PGI Analysis: Kidnappings at sea are common in the Gulf of Guinea, and are largely perpetrated by Niger Delta-based pirate groups, although the past seven days has seen a significant uptick in the rate of such reports. The majority of attacks typically occur within 200 nm of Nigeria’s coastline and reports of pirate activity, while not unheard of, are rare as far south as São Tomé and Príncipe. Pirates are notoriously violent and persistent in the Gulf of Guinea, and assailants will often only halt the attack upon incurring serious injuries.

Select Maritime News

Canada: Union strikes against shipping company

23 October

Navigation and engineering officers’ union the Canadian Merchant Services Guild mounted a strike against Algoma Central Corporation shipping company. Some 54 members of the union are involved in the action, although they have assured Algoma that vessels affected by the strike will sail to a safe berth and be secured before the employees leave their posts. The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada said that regulations forbid companies from using foreign crews to replace striking Canadian seafarers and urged any vessels doing so in Canadian waters to leave the jurisdiction immediately. The impact of the strike, and the issue causing it are unclear, although maritime news sources indicate it could be over a new collective bargaining agreement.

Cote d’Ivoire: Sea Invest to build mineral terminal at Abidjan port

25 October

Belgian company Sea Invest announced it would build a new mineral terminal at the port of Abidjan. The announcement was made during the visit of a Belgian delegation of 200 business people aimed at increasing economic cooperation. Trade between Belgian and Cote d’Ivoire grew by 72 percent over 2012-2016. African Integration Minister Ally Coulibaly said that Belgium’s mission was a message of trust for Cote d’Ivoire, which is still recovering from a violent political crisis in 2010-2011.

India: Security agencies alert ports, airports over IS returnees

28 October

According to local media reports, intelligence and security agencies issued alerts to Indian ports and airports to ensure the arrests of Indian nationals returning from fighting for the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The alerts reportedly came after the fall of Raqqa, Syria, on 17 October. Suspected returnees are to be screened and arrested upon entering the country. Reports estimate that some 91 Indian nationals joined IS in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. At least 11 Indians have returned to the country while estimates say at least 7 were killed in fighting. Security forces have arrested at least four suspected IS members in Chennai and Kannur since September.

Indonesia: Authorities seize 101 illegal pangolins from fishing boat off Sumatra

24 October

Naval authorities seized 101 illegal live pangolins from a fishing boat off the east coast of Sumatra on 24 October, highlighting the ongoing threat of contraband smuggling in Indonesia. Conservationist groups estimate the haul to be worth USD 1.5 mn. The authorities received a tip-off on the contraband by locals who claimed the pangolins were to be smuggled to Malaysia, before likely being shipped to China where they are considered highly valuable for traditional medicine. Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animal.

North Korea: Pyongyang to release captured South Korean fishing boat

27 October

North Korea’s state news agency KCNA has said it will release a South Korean fishing vessel “for humanitarian reasons”, six days after it was detained for allegedly illegally trespassing North Korean waters. The boat was captured on 21 October in the East Sea. Pyongyang said it decided to release the vessel after the crew admitted their offence and apologised. The incident comes amid heightened tensions between the countries over North Korea’s accelerating nuclear missile programme.

United Kingdom: Royal Navy dismisses nine sailors over failed drug tests

28 October

The Royal Navy dismissed nine sailors from the HMS Vigilant, a Vanguard-class submarine carrying the nuclear deterrent Trident, over failed drug tests. The Royal Navy said investigations were ongoing and that the arrests did not impact operations. The dismissals come after the navy relieved the HMS Valliant’s captain of his command for having an allegedly inappropriate relationship with a crew member. The HMS Vigilant is one of four British submarines carrying Trident missiles.

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