Weekly Maritime Security Report

Select Maritime News

Brazil: Authorities report American family safe after river pirate attack

1 November

Law enforcement officials in Para announced that an American family of four who had been missing since 29 October, when pirates attacked the boat on which they were travelling in the Amazon river delta area, were found alive. The family was travelling to Breves when gunmen boarded their boat and stripped the crew and passengers of their belongings. However, there was no sign of the family when police arrived as they fled the boat to escape the pirates. Pirate attacks on river boats on the Amazon are periodically reported. 

China: Beijing unveils new dredging ship

3 November

China revealed it had built a 140 m dredging ship that is more powerful than its current vessels, capable of digging 6,000 cubic metres per hour. The vessel was dubbed the ‘magic island-maker’ in Chinese media, fuelling concerns it would be used to create more islands in the South China Sea. Beijing has been accused of creating artificial islands to strengthen its claims over the contested waters.

India: Navy to step up patrols in Indian Ocean

5 November

Navy Chief Sunil Lanba reported that the navy is broadening its patrol areas in the Indian Ocean Region to cover all choke points amid increasing maritime threats. Under the deployment, between 12 and 15 ships will be permanently deployed at the choke points and main sea lanes. India’s defence minister previously expressed concern over Beijing sending ships to the northern Indian Ocean to conduct anti-piracy operations.

Italy: Police announce seizure of 100 tonnes of diesel

4 November

Italian police announced that they had seized a vessel carrying more than 100 tonnes of contraband diesel from Libya. The ship was intercepted in Sicilian waters on 26 October, however the incident was not previously reported. The fuel, along with 11 tonnes of contraband cigarettes, were concealed on board the Togolese flagged vessel in several hidden cisterns. The captain of the vessel, an Indonesian national, was arrested, but four Indonesian crew were released. Italy has emerged as a major hub for illicit Libyan fuel trafficking.

Italy: Police seize drugs in Gioia Tauro allegedly belonging to Islamic State

3 November

Italian police seized more than 24 mn tablets of synthetic opiate Tramadol from a shipping container at the port of Gioia Tauro. The drugs, estimated to be worth USD 58 mn, were allegedly to be sold by the Islamic State to fund future terrorist attacks, according to Reggio Calabria’s chief prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho. No details on how the illegal shipment was discovered or its final destination were released by the court. The US Drug Enforcement Administration is known to have collaborated in the investigation. A similar shipment was discovered at Genoa port in May 2017. 

Libya: Coast guard rescues more than 150 migrants

4 November

The Libyan coast guard rescued more than 150 migrants after the engine on their rubber boat failed, Reuters reported. The captain of the Libyan ship that returned the migrants to Tripoli port said that they had been rescued from drowning in cooperation with an Italian vessel. Most of the intercepted migrants were from West African countries, and some were from Bangladesh. The Libyan coast guard has increased its patrols to turn back migrant boats under pressure from the EU. 

Madagascar: Insurer warns of plague at ports

1 November

Insurance company London P&I Club warned of an outbreak of plague in Madagascar, including at ports. The company said those calling at Madagascan ports should consider limiting contact onshore and avoid travelling in-land. An outbreak of pneumonic plague has been reported in the port city of Tamatave. 

Mozambique: Fire on fishing vessel off Quelimane kills four

2 November

According to emergency services, a fire on a private fishing vessel off the coast of Mozambique near Quelimane killed four crewmembers and left a fifth with severe burns. The fire, which officials said may have been caused by a short circuit, was extinguished after 10 hours.

Nigeria: Maritime Administration warns of uptick in pirate activity

3 November

The US Maritime Administration published its latest Maritime alert which cautioned ships to be wary when approaching Nigerian waters. The alert noted that the most recent attacks in the Gulf of Guinea confirmed escalating insecurity in Nigerian waters, and said that of the 20 attacks reported from Nigeria in the past quarter, 16 occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa states. 

Oman: Coastguard seizes five boats, arrests 12 near Khuriya Muriya Islands

2 November

According to local media, the coastguard and police seized five fishing boats and arrested 12 unspecified Asian foreign nationals near the Khuriya Muriya Islands for violating labour and fishing laws. Arrests over fishing violations have been common since the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries announced plans to crack down on the practice. In October, authorities arrested 24 people for violating fishing laws. 

South Africa: Durban port resumes operations after storm

1 November

State-owned freight and logistics company Transnet said that it had restored 100 percent of operations at the Port of Durban. The move comes after the port suspended activities due to a heavy storm, which killed at least eight people in KwaZulu-Natal region in October. The Durban complex also resumed rail operations on the Natal Corridor. 

Sri Lanka: Navy arrests 13 fishermen for poaching near Kangesanthurai port

1 November

The navy arrested 13 fishermen from India’s Tamil Nadu state over alleged illegal fishing in Sri Lankan territory near Kangesanthurai port. Authorities said that the suspects were using banned fishing nets and that three mechanised boats were seized. Authorities from Tamil Nadu have been attempting to negotiate the release of 54 fishermen held by Sri Lanka over illegal fishing in recent weeks. 

Tunisia: Navy rescues 58 migrants off coast near Sfax

31 October

The navy rescued 58 migrants after their boat broke down 100 kilometres off the coast of Sfax, local media reported. Increased pressure on migrant sea routes out of Libya has diverted activity to other parts of North Africa, including Tunisia. 

Yemen: Coalition closes air, sea, land access

6 November

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen temporarily closed off all air, sea and land access to the country. In a statement, the coalition said that aid workers and humanitarian supplies would still be able to access and exit Yemen. The statement also accused Iran of supplying Houthi rebels with the missile fired towards Riyadh’s international airport on 4 November, which was intercepted by Saudi air defences without causing any casualties. The coalition added that the missile attack could “rise to be considered an act of war”, and threatened Iran with a potential retaliatory strike. Iran has backed Houthi rebels, but denies arming them. 

United States: Los Angeles, Long Beach ports pledge to lower pollution

2 November

The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – which represent the largest port complex in the US – have pledged to improve efficiency and significantly reduce air pollution. The ports estimate that the cost of the efforts ranges from USD 7-14 bn, although the plans for implementing each programme will require approval by each port’s harbour commission. The plan has raised concerns that the high cost of the clean air goals could make the two ports less attractive in the face of competition from ports on the East and Gulf coasts, the Associated Press reported. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle about 40 percent of US container import traffic and about 25 percent of total exports. 

Vietnam: Typhoon kills 27 people, causes widespread damage

5 November

Typhoon Damrey has left at least 27 people dead and 22 others missing, after it struck Vietnam’s south-central coast on 4 November. Khanh Hoa province was the worst-hit, with at least 14 deaths reported there, the provincial disaster agency said. The typhoon also destroyed 302 homes and knocked the roofs off more than 25,000 others, while sinking 112 transport and fishing boats, according to the agency. Widespread blackouts were reported in the region and tens of flights were cancelled. The typhoon follows a tropical storm in October which triggered large-scale floods in several northern and central provinces and killed 80 people.

Nigeria: Crude oil tanker escapes pirates near Bonny Island

3 November

A crude oil tanker escaped two pirate vessels as it was sailing some 21 nm south-southwest of Bonny Island, the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre reported. The officer of the watch on the tanker raised the alarm upon spotting the pirates, and the master ordered the crew to secure access to the vessel and retreat to the citadel. The bridge team deployed evasive manoeuvres, and pirates aborted their boarding attempt when a Nigerian naval vessel approached the scene. All crew members were reported safe.

PGI Analysis: Piracy is widespread in the Gulf of Guinea, where pirates regularly conduct kidnap for ransom attacks at sea. Despite the Nigerian Navy’s attempts to patrol the Gulf of Guinea, the incident comes amid a major uptick in attacks off Nigeria in recent weeks, which has prompted the US Maritime Administration to issue an alert over piracy off Nigeria. October saw a total of seven reported piracy-related incidents, including exchanges of fire and two kidnappings, although many similar incidents are likely to have gone unreported.

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