Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Oman: Iranian naval forces report foiling pirate attack in Gulf of Aden

26 November

Iranian naval forces reported that they halted a pirate attack against an Iranian cargo ship, the Caspian Harmony, south of Ras Sharbitat in the Gulf of Aden. Forces said the Alvand destroyer and Lavan logistics warship foiled the attempted hijacking.

Yemen: Pirates attempt to board merchant vessel in Gulf of Oman

22 November

A merchant vessel reported that five skiffs carried out aggressive manoeuvres near their vessel before firing unspecified weapons at the vessel and attempting to board it in the Gulf of Oman. The attempt failed, and further details of the incident were not disclosed.

Yemen: Armed pirates attack merchant vessel off Mukalla

21 November

A merchant vessel reported that it came under attack from armed men on board four skiffs southwest of Mukalla. The vessel later reported all crew were safe following the attack, and further details were not disclosed. The Dubai-based UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) centre issued a warning to other vessels in the region that the pirates were still at large.

PGI Analysis: There has been a significant uptick in armed attacks against vessels in the waters off Yemen and Somalia since the hijacking of the Aris 13 bunkering tanker in March, which served to alert pirates that many vessels in the region were failing to take adequate anti-piracy measures. Authorities have urged shippers to comply with Best Management Practices (BMP4) to avoid and deter pirate attacks in the region. The spike in attacks in recent weeks coincides with the end of the monsoon season, which has led to more permissive environmental conditions for piracy. However, attacks are being reported at higher rates than the same period last year, which could indicate a renewed effort by pirates to target commercial vessels in the region. 

Cote d’Ivoire: Bulk carrier reports suspicious boat at Abidjan Anchorage

21 November

A bulk carrier reported that it was approached by a boat from astern, prompting the master to raise the alarm and crew to muster. The boat moved alongside the vessel near the bow and remained within 20-30 metres of the vessel for around 30 minutes before moving away.

PGI Analysis: The motive behind the suspicious activity remains unclear, although it is likely the perpetrators were robbers scoping the area. Pirate attacks in West Africa typically occur further out at sea where vessels are less close to naval security forces and therefore more vulnerable to attack.

Nigeria: Speedboat chases container ship 66 nm off Bonny Island

22 November

A speedboat chased a container vessel 66 nm south-south west of Bonny Island in the Gulf of Guinea, prompting the master to raise the alarm and the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) to perform evasive manoeuvres. The Nigerian navy was dispatched to the vessel although assistance failed to arrive and the speedboat abandoned the chase after 20 minutes. The vessel and crew were both reported to be safe.

PGI Analysis: The attempted attack marks the latest in a series of pirate attacks against merchant vessels off Nigeria. The majority of attacks occur off the Niger Delta where many pirate groups are based, although attacks have been reported as far as 150 nm off Nigeria’s coastline in recent years.

Nigeria: Robbers target product tanker in Lagos SAA

21 November

Ten robbers attempted to board a product tanker at Lagos Secure Anchorage Area (SAA). The assailants abandoned the attempt and fled when crew raised the alarm.

PGI Analysis: Reports of security incidents within the SSA are infrequent due to the presence of armed patrol boats in the anchorage. Robbers typically target vessels waiting illegally in the No Anchorage Area.Select Maritime News

Algeria: Madrid urges Algiers to strengthen maritime security

24 November

A recent wave of illegal immigrants caused Spanish authorities to urge Algeria to strengthen the surveillance of its waters. Spanish Minister of the Interior Juan Ignacia Zoido is set to meet with the Algerian ambassador to Spain, Taous Feroukhi, to raise the issue. Hundreds of Algerians have been arrested by the Spanish coast guard, and Spanish authorities have also found abandoned boats they believe were used by Algerian migrants to immigrate illegally. Spanish NGOs have criticised the treatment of detained Algerian migrants in Spain.

Argentina: President to order probe into missing submarine

24 November

President Mauricio Macri ordered an inquiry to determine what happened to the submarine that disappeared with 44 crew on 15 November. The navy has been strongly criticised for its handling of the operation, as it only declared there had been an explosion on board on 24 November. Local press reports indicated Macri is also preparing to dismiss the navy chief following the incident.

Australia: Beijing criticises Canberra over South China Sea policy

24 November

China has criticised Australia for making “irresponsible remarks” after Canberra raised concerns over the pace and scale of Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea in a policy paper. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Australia had repeatedly pledged not to take sides over the disputed zone. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop meanwhile played down the criticism, saying Chinese officials respect her government’s position.

Colombia: Ten people missing on Orinoco river after boats capsize

21 November

Rescue workers were searching for 10 people who went missing after two boats capsized in the Orinoco river. Witnesses said one of the boats had suffered a mechanical problem and was being towed by the other when they hit a rock from the shore. The incident took place 10 km downstream from Puerto Carreño.

Ghana: Port authorities likely to increase tariffs from January 2018

24 November

The Ghana Port and Harbours Authority (GPHA) revised a series of port tariffs to come into effect from 1 January 2018. The new tariffs are likely to see increased charges of between 5 and 20 percent on importers and exporters, local media sources reported. Reports did not specify which tariffs specifically would be increased. The GPHA is set to meet with industry representatives in the coming weeks to discuss the new tariff regime.

Indonesia: Ferry crashes into Kendari port building

23 November

An Indonesian-flagged jetliner ferry carrying 181 passengers and 36 crew members crashed into an office building while approaching Kendari port, southeast Sulawesi island. The crash was due to a loss of steering control, according to World Maritime News, citing the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency. There were no reported injuries. All passengers were evacuated to Kendari port. Both the ferry and the office building sustained substantial damage.

Japan: Police in Akita find eight fishermen allegedly from North Korea

24 November

Police in the prefecture of Akita found and arrested eight fishermen who claimed they were from North Korea. According to a police statement, the men appear to be fishermen whose vessel ran into trouble, rather than defectors. They were arrested after a resident of Yurihonjo city told police about the presence of individuals of an unknown nationality. The incident comes amid heightened tensions with North Korea over its nuclear missile programme, and days after a North Korean defector rushed across the border with South Korea and was shot and severely injured.

Libya: Boat capsize kills at least 30 migrants off Garabulli

25 November

At least 31 migrants were killed after their boat capsized off the shores of Garabulli as it was trying to cross the Mediterranean alongside another boat. Some 60 people were rescued and another 140 people were picked up from the second boat. The number of migrants leaving Libya for Europe has increased in recent days due to mild weather conditions and calm seas.

Malaysia: Maritime security agency to lead air surveillance coordination

27 November

The deputy prime minister announced that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) would operate as the lead agency for air surveillance coordination in the maritime area. The appointment was part of the government’s National Blue Ocean Strategy, involving the use of government agencies to improve maritime coordination, including in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone and some areas in Sarawak.

Nigeria: Authorities accuse shippers of importing illicit firearms

22 November

Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service Hameed Ali accused shipping companies of colluding in the import of illicit firearms into the country. He urged the authorities to toughen sanctions against companies that are suspected of involvement in illicit arms trade. Ali declared customs had seized 2,671 shotguns in Nigerian ports in recent months and that weapons coming through Nigeria were contributing to violence in Borno state and in the Anglophone areas of Cameroon.

Tunisia: Navy rescues 22 migrants off coast near Zarzis

23 November

The ministry of defence said that naval forces rescued 22 migrants 120 km off the coast near Zarzis after the vessel they were travelling in suffered a motor failure. The migrants included Tunisians, Moroccans, Sudanese and Bangladeshi nationals. The vessel left from Boukamech and had attempted to reach the coast of Italy. Migrant departures from Tunisia have risen as Libyan coast guard patrols have increased in recent months.

Tunisia: Coast guard arrests 66 over migration attempt in Sfax

21 November

The interior ministry said that the coast guard arrested 66 people during an attempt to cross the Mediterranean in a fishing vessel from Sfax. The vessel was stopped 22 km offshore. The migrants included 59 Tunisians and seven other North Africans. Police seized USD 16,120 and a vehicle following the arrests. Attempts to cross the Mediterranean by migrants and refugees are common in Tunisia.

United Kingdom: London, Paris sign maritime security agreement for Channel

23 November

The British and French defence ministers resolved to increase cooperation and intelligence-sharing in the English Channel. The agreement outlined plans for countering terrorism and illegal immigration, and is in addition to an existing partnership between the British and French navies covering joint naval exercises and maritime intelligence-sharing. Both governments have already cooperated over illegal migration and criminal groups operating via the Channel tunnel.

Yemen: Aid vessel docks in Hodeidah as blockade eases

26 November

A ship carrying around 5,000 tonnes of flour docked at Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah. The vessel docked in Yemen 20 days after Saudi-led coalition forces closed Yemen’s ports, airports and land crossings in response to a failed Houthi missile attack on the Saudi capital Riyadh. The coalition agreed to relax the blockade after widespread criticism and warnings of a severe humanitarian crisis.

Yemen: Civil society protests interference at Aden port

22 November

UAE-backed forces were accused of storming Aden port and preventing a Chinese vessel from unloading its unspecified commercial cargo. Several Aden-based civil society organizations issued a statement protesting the alleged interference, which they argued was unjustified. Activists said the vessel arrived from the Saudi city of Jeddah with proper authorisation from the Saudi-led coalition. Further details of the incident were not provided, but the presence of multiple armed groups in Aden is a source of confusion.

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