Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Bangladesh: Criminals board barge in Nidania

16 December

An unknown number of robbers boarded a barge under tow around 14 nm west of Nidania, Cox Bazar at 1450 hrs local time. The assailants stole unspecified property from the vessel and fled. All crew were reported safe. Further details on the incident were not provided.

PGI Analysis: Robberies targeting vessels are only intermittently reported off Bangladesh, although many more are likely to go unreported. Criminal activity, including opportunistic thefts and armed robberies, is common in Bangladesh and vessels should remain vigilant when at anchor and underway in the region.

Nigeria: Update: Six pirates attack carrier, abduct crew south of Brass

14 December

According to updated reports, six pirates reportedly attacked and boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier underway around 32 nm South of Brass, Nigeria. The assailants used a small boat to board the carrier. Ten crew members were reported missing after the incident. The remaining crew sailed the vessel to an unnamed port.

PGI Analysis: Further details of the incident have not been confirmed, although local reports state pirates occupied the vessel for one hour. The crew remained unharmed, indicating they had barricade themselves in a citadel. Reports of kidnap for ransom attacks targeting vessels off the Niger Delta have increased since mid-2017, prompting the US to issue warnings to shippers operating in the region.

Vietnam: Robbers board carrier at Hon Net Anchorage

16 December

Between 10-12 criminals reportedly boarded an anchored bulk carrier at Hon Net Anchorage, Cam Ph The gang boarded the vessel using the mooring ropes of the cargo barge alongside the carrier. Crew raised the alarm after the robbers were seen stealing paint drums. The criminals fled with stolen ship’s properties.

Singapore: Armed robbers assault crew in Singapore Strait

13 December

Four robbers armed with knives boarded an underway tanker in the Singapore Straits and assaulted the duty oiler upon encountering him. The assailants then escaped with stolen ship’s engine spare parts after crew mustered and raised the alarm.

Indonesia: Armed robbers board vessel at Galang Anchorage
7 December

According to a late report, four robbers armed with knives boarded an offshore supply vessel at Galang Anchorage at about 0500 hrs local time. Duty crew sighted the thieves and raised the alarm and crew mustered, prompting the assailants to flee before they could steal anything.

PGI Analysis: Robberies targeting vessels in Southeast Asia are common, although assailants typically target vessels at anchor as they are easier to board. Although robbers are often armed with knives, the majority of assailants are easily deterred when sighted by crew members. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in reports of violent robberies in recent years, in which crew are assaulted and tied up so robbers can successfully steal ships’ spares.

Select Maritime News

China: Think tank says Beijing’s military build-up in South China Sea continues

14 December

China has continued to install high-frequency radar and other facilities that can be used for military purposes on the artificial islands it has created in the South China Sea, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies think tank. The work reportedly took place on facilities covering 29 hectares of the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands. The think tank said that China had completed tunnels at Subi Reef that were likely for ammunition storage and another radar antenna array and radar domes. The news comes after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on 12 December reiterated a call for China to freeze its military build-up in the South China Sea.

Israel: Strike against Teva job cuts halts airport, seaport operations

17 December

Israel’s national trade union, Histadrut, staged a nationwide strike to denounce planned job cuts at pharmaceuticals giant Teva. The strike halted operations at Israel’s main international airport and seaports, while banks and government services were shut, the Associated Press reported. In Jerusalem, workers also staged a protest that was joined by Mayor Nir Barkat, with the demonstrators blocking traffic near the entrance to a Teva plant. Teva has said it plans to cut 14,000 jobs globally, including 1,400 jobs in Israel.

Japan: Tokyo to deport six North Korean sailors

12 December

Japan has announced it will deport six of 10 North Korean sailors who were rescued from a small wooden boat off northern Japan, according to AFP. Three of the sailors have been arrested on suspicion of theft after they admitted to taking electronic products, including fridges and TVs, from a remote Japanese island where they landed briefly to take refuge. The men were arrested by the coast guard off Hokkaido after drifting into Japanese waters. The incident comes amid escalating tensions with North Korea over its nuclear missile programme.

Libya: Coast guard intercepts over 250 migrants in northwest

16 December

The coast guard intercepted more than 250 undocumented migrants off the country’s northwestern coast, between the towns of Garabulli and Zliten. Libya’s western coast remains the main departure point for migrants trying to reach European shores, although numbers have dropped significantly in recent months due to efforts to cut back human smuggling by the UN-backed Libyan government.

Libya: Amnesty accuses EU of complicity in abuse of migrants held in Libya

12 December

Rights group Amnesty International said in a report that EU countries were complicit in the abuse of migrants held in Libya as they were turning a blind eye to the allegedly brutal tactics of the Libyan coast guard, the Associated Press reported. Amnesty also alleged that the Libyan coast guard was accepting kickbacks from smugglers to let migrant boats leave for Europe. The EU has worked closely with Libya and other countries in the region to close off migrant routes, after an estimated 1 mn asylum seekers and migrants arrived in Europe in 2015. The EU has rejected the allegations, claiming that its funds allocated to Libya were channelled through UN agencies and that very few Libyan coast guards were trained by EU institutions.

Tunisia: Authorities seize container with 20 kg of explosives in Tunis

12 December

Customs officers seized a container imported from Turkey containing 20 kg of explosives hidden among clothes and handbags. Local media reported that the consignment, which was seized from Tunis’ La Goulette Port, was to be shipped to Algeria. Tunisia experiences high levels of smuggling, though seizures of explosive materials are rare.

Philippines: Storm leaves 2,900 passengers, 195 vessels stranded

18 December

The Philippine Coast Guard said 2,900 ferry passengers and 195 vessels remained stranded at seaports affected by tropical depression Urduja, after it made landfall over Aklan province late on 17 December. The coast guard added that some vessels were now able to sail and that the Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 1 is only raised over Palawan province. Several domestic flights were also cancelled due to the storm. Urduja is expected to exit Philippine territory on 19 December.

Philippines: Tropical storm kills 26 people in Biliran

17 December

At least 26 people were killed due to landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak on the central Philippine island of Biliran, authorities said. The news came a day after the storm struck Samar island and killed at least three people in neighbouring Leyte in the eastern Philippines. Weather officials said the storm had weakened later on 17 December, with gusts of up to 80 km an hour, and was reclassified as a tropical depression. However, authorities warned that more floods and landslides were possible, adding that 15,500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the region, according to local media reports.

Russia: Five states reach broad agreement over Caspian status

11 December

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated all five Caspian Sea states had reached agreement on important outstanding issues regarding its legal status. Lavrov made the announcement after he had met with counterparts from Kazakhstan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian is set to be signed at the 5th Caspian Summit in Kazakhstan in 2018. The legal status of the Caspian Sea has been under discussion since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. If it is designated to be a sea, the five littoral states would divide the area into sovereign territorial waters. If declared a lake, the Caspian’s resources would be divided equally among the five countries.

United Kingdom: Defence chief warns of Moscow threat to undersea cables

15 December

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach warned that Russia posed a threat to internet and telecommunications cables that run along the seabed. Speaking at British defence think tank the Royal United Services Institute, he warned that disruption to the cables could have catastrophic effects and called on NATO to prioritise their protection. Around 97 percent of global communications are transmitted through the submarine cable networks.

Venezuela: Tanker build-up at ports due to PDVSA fuel oil export delays

11 December

Tankers waiting to load have accumulated around Venezuelan ports, according to Reuters. Four tankers were reportedly waiting at Paranguana port and eight tankers were waiting at Jose port, which is PDVSA’s main export terminal, Reuters reported. The build-up has occurred as state run oil company PDVSA struggles to deliver fuel oil for export. Venezuela is dependent on oil exports and PDVSA’s revenue accounts for more than 90 percent of the country’s revenue in foreign currency.

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