Weekly Maritime Security Report

Select Maritime News

Mexico: Fishermen shoot down drone in Gulf of California

27 December

The environmental group Sea Shepherd said that fishermen shot down a drone used by the group in the Gulf of California on 24 December. The exact location of the incident was not immediately confirmed. The environmental group uses drones to combat illegal fishing in an attempt at protecting an endangered porpoise species. The activities of the group often prompt protests by local fishermen and attacks against their property, though this is the first instance of weapons being used against the group.

North Korea: Reuters reports Russian vessels transferred fuel to North Korean ships

29 December

Russian vessels transferred shipments of oil to North Korean vessels on at least three occasions in October and November 2017, Reuters said, citing unnamed security sources. The smuggling is in breach of UN sanctions. Reuters said that one of the sources confirmed no evidence of Russian state involvement in the fuel smuggling. North Korea is reliant on imported fuel to ensure its struggling economy functions.

North Korea: Trump accuses Beijing of allowing oil transfers to Pyongyang

29 December

US President Donald Trump has accused China of allowing oil to be transferred and shipped to North Korea in violation of international sanctions. In a tweet, Trump said that China was caught “red-handed” after South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that Chinese tankers have been secretly transferring petroleum products to North Korean vessels while in international waters. The accusation comes a week after Beijing supported a UN resolution to cut North Korea’s petrol imports by up to 90 percent in order to curb its nuclear missile programme. China has continued to maintain that it fully enforces all UN resolutions against Pyongyang, though there are frequent revelations of sanctions violations by Chinese firms.

North Korea: Washington seeks to blacklist 10 ships for Pyongyang sanctions breaches

19 December

The US has called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to blacklist 10 vessels accused of violating UN sanctions imposed on North Korea in retaliation for its nuclear and missile programmes. The vessels had conducted ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels or transported North Korean coal, Reuters reported, citing official documents. If approved by all 15 permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC, all countries would be required to ban the ships from entering their ports. The ships targeted for blacklisting were Xin Sheng Hai (flag unknown); the Hong-Kong-flagged Lighthouse Winmore; the Togo-flagged Yu Yuan; Panama-flagged Glory Hope 1 (also known as Orient Shenyu), Kai Xiang, and Billions No. 18; and the North Korean-flagged Ul Ji Bong 6, Rung Ra 2, Rye Song Gang 1, and Sam Jong 2, according to Reuters.

Philippines: Ferry carrying 251 people capsizes off Quezon province

21 December

A ferry carrying 251 people capsized in waters between Dinahican Quezon and Polilo Island, off Quezon province, killing at least four people. A spokesperson for the Philippine Coast Guard said that 140 people had been rescued. It is not clear what caused the accident. Authorities said the ferry had the capacity to carry 280 people, suggesting that over-crowding was an unlikely cause of the accident. The coast guard said it was likely due to the severe weather brought by Tropical Storm Vinta affecting the southern Philippines. Officials said that rescue operations were hampered by heavy rain and huge waves caused by the storm. Vinta is expected to make landfall in Surigao del Sur in the Caraga region of Mindanao later on 21 December or early on 22 December.

South Korea: Authorities seize second vessel for oil transfers to Pyongyang

31 December

South Korean authorities seized a Panama-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil products to North Korea in violation of international sanctions, according to a customs official. The KOTI ship was seized at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port, on the western coast south of Incheon. The ship has a capacity of 5,100 tonnes of oil and a crew made up of Chinese and Myanmar nationals, according to Yonhap news agency. Few other details were provided on the seizure. It is the second seizure of a vessel for oil transfers, after South Korea reported in November that it had seized a Hong Kong-flagged vessel for the same reason.

South Korea: Coast guard fires 249 warning shots against Chinese vessels

19 December

South Korea’s coast guard said it fired 249 warning shots over a group of 44 Chinese fishing boats surrounding one of its patrol ships in South Korean waters, Reuters reported. The coast guard said in a statement that the boats ignored the warning shots and “sought to swarm around and collide with” its patrol ship. South Korea’s coast guard routinely pursues Chinese vessels suspected of fishing illegally in the country’s waters, sometimes leading to violent confrontations. In September 2016, three Chinese fishermen were killed in a fire on their boat when a South Korean coast guard crew threw flash grenades into a room where they were hiding. The coast guard was seeking to detain the Chinese nationals for illegal fishing.

Spain: Police seize one tonne of cocaine, dismantle trafficking ring

21 December

Spanish police announced they had arrested 11 people and seized one tonne of cocaine hidden inside a shipment of pineapples from Costa Rica. The operation dismantled a family organisation suspected of drug trafficking in the Costa del Sol region, who used real estate and financial infrastructure to avoid police and customs checks. Police added that the gang had also set up real estate and financial infrastructure in several West African countries.

Yemen: Riyadh agrees to reopen Hodeidah port

21 December

The Saudi-led coalition has said it would allow the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah to re-open for a minimum period of 30 days. The announcement comes after UN warnings that a month-long blockade on the port prevented crucial aid from reaching the Yemeni population. The coalition said that the port would be open for humanitarian and commercial vessels. The coalition closed the port in early December in response to Houthi missile attacks, saying that the blockade was necessary to stop weapons from reaching Houthi rebels.



Nigeria: Pirates attack vessel off Bonny Island

24 December

A mother vessel reported coming under attack at 0735 hrs local time some 40 nm off Bonny Island. No further details were provided.

Nigeria: Update: IMB confirms kidnapping of crew off the coast of Brass

22 December

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) confirmed the abduction of 10 crew members from a container ship 32 nm south of Brass, Bayelsa State, on 14 December. IMB said the crewmembers were missing but did not disclose whether ransom demands were made. There have been high levels of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea throughout 2017, with Niger Delta-based pirate groups staging regular kidnap-at-sea attacks.

PGI Analysis: It remains unclear whether pirates were able to board or kidnap any crew in the 24 December attack, although it is likely pirates opened fire on the vessel. Violent kidnap for ransom attacks against crew are common in the waters off Nigeria and the crew kidnapped on 14 December remain missing, although local reports indicate pirates have released the vessel.



Indonesia: Armed robbers board bulk carrier at Samarinda anchorage

21 December

Four robbers armed with knives boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier at Muara Berau anchorage in Samarinda at 2115 hrs local time. The robbers entered the vessel via the anchor chain and through the hawse pipe. Crew mustered and raised the alarm upon sighting the robbers, causing them to flee before they could steal any goods.

PGI Analysis: Robberies are sporadically reported at Samarinda anchorage, although further incidents are thought to go unreported. Most robberies targeting vessels at anchor in Southeast Asia take place overnight to take advantage of reduced visibility, highlighting the need for vigilance at anchorages in the region.  

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