Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Benin: Abducted tanker crew released

17 January

Tanker owner company Union Maritime announced that the 22 crew members abducted from the MT Barret on 10 January had been released following a resolution process. Union Maritime did not disclose whether a ransom payment had been made, although it said multiple parties assisted in securing the crew members’ release, including authorities from Benin, Togo, Nigeria and India. The exact location of the incident has not been disclosed but Union Maritime said it lost contact with the vessel while it was anchored 75 nm off Benin.

PGI Analysis: Kidnappings targeting seafarers are common in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly in the waters off Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta region, with the latest attack indicating that pirates are extending their range of operation. Some reports indicated that the incident was linked to oil siphoning, although this has not been confirmed. Nigeria’s navy has launched repeated attempts to combat piracy in the region, although has been largely unsuccessful as the region maintains its status as one of the world’s piracy hot-spots.

Indonesia: Robbers steal ship property from vessel anchored off Samarinda
21 January

Two robbers boarded a vessel anchored at Muara Berau Anchorage, Samarinda, and stole ship properties before escaping unnoticed. The theft was discovered by crew on routine rounds at 0435 hrs local time.

Indonesia: Suspicious craft approaches workboat in Singapore Strait

17 January

A UK-flagged workboat towing three pipelines reported that it was approached by two individuals on board a small craft 8.5 nm north-northeast of Tanjung Balai, Pulau Karimun Bear at 0023 hrs local time. The perpetrators made no attempt to board the boat although crew onboard the workboat alerted the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) via VHF radio. Further details of the craft were not available due to poor visibility.

PGI Analysis: The motive behind the approach is unclear although armed robbers have targeted underway commercial vessels in the area in recent months. Southeast Asia saw an increase in robbery incidents in 2017, most of which targeted vessels at anchor. Robbers are often armed and have been known to threaten or tie up crew in order to steal ship property.

Select Maritime News

Benin: Port, judicial, healthcare workers, teachers commence strike action

16 January

Trade union members across the port, healthcare, judicial and education sectors began a three-day strike to denounce a controversial new law curbing some sectors’ right to strike. The action reportedly paralysed activity in their respective sectors. The new law has caused a wave of industrial action in recent months.

Brazil: Authorities seize more than 400 containers in Manaus

18 January

Police reported they had seized 444 containers in a probe into illegal logging in the Amazon. The seizures were made as part of an investigation at ports in the riverside city of Manaus, which serves as a key transhipment point for illegal timber. About half of the logs were due for export to the US or Europe.

China: Oil spill off Shanghai triples in size

22 January

A massive oil spill off the coast of Shanghai has more than tripled in size just over a week after an Iranian tanker sank on 14 January after colliding with a grain ship. The authorities, who have launched an emergency clean-up, have identified three oil slicks with a total surface area of 332 sq km. The Sanchi was carrying 111,000 tonnes of light crude from Iran when it sank. It is considered the biggest oil spill from a ship in decades.

China: Beijing accuses US warship of violating sovereignty

20 January

China’s foreign ministry accused the missile destroyer USS Hopper of coming within 12 nm of Huangyan Island in the South China Sea on 17 January. China’s navy reportedly ordered the vessel to withdraw after determining its identity. China’s foreign ministry spokesman said the ship violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, as well as threatening the safety of its vessels and personnel in the vicinity. Washington has criticised Beijing for constructing islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

Cote d’Ivoire: Authorities award Tullow Oil two new oil and gas blocks

17 January

Authorities awarded Tullow Oil two new oil and gas blocks, including one close to the maritime border with Ghana. The blocks CI-520 and CI-524 are located close to Abidjan. Tullow Oil holds stakes in nine Ivorian blocks, which it recuperated after the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea settled a maritime border dispute between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Ghana: Local media report oil spill in Greater Accra Region

16 January

A container was washed ashore, spilling oil in the sea at Ada Ayigboe in the Ada East District, Greater Accra. The quantity of oil spilled remains unknown although appears to be minimal, according to local media sources. The information was not immediately confirmed by officials.

India: New Delhi, Tokyo to increase anti-piracy cooperation

18 January

The Indian coast guard announced increased cooperation with the Japanese coast guard to improve its search and rescue, and anti-piracy operations. The first joint search and rescue exercise, Sarex-18, took place on 16 January off the coast of Bangladesh and involved coast guards from both Japan and India. Nine countries observed the exercise, including Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

Iran: Warplanes warn off coalition vessels in southeast

22 January

The Iranian armed forces said that warplanes warned off two coalition vessels during military drills near the Makran Coast, and other areas in the Gulf of Oman. The unidentified vessels reportedly left the area after Iranian planes flew over them. The claims were not verified independently, but Iranian and US forces in the region regularly engage in hostile confrontations, raising concerns over an unintended escalation.

Libya: Tobruk port reopens after three-month closure

18 January

The eastern port of Tobruk resumed operations after a three-month closure. A ship carrying 27,000 tonnes of bulk wheat from Russia was the first to dock at the sea port after it reopened. The self-styled Libyan National Army closed down the port in October, citing concerns over widespread smuggling, poor security and corruption. Port authorities said that new measures to fight smuggling had been implemented at the newly-reopened port.

Malaysia: Authorities apprehend boat, arrest animal traffickers

20 January

The Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) apprehended a boat and arrested three Indonesian animal smugglers off the coast of Malaysia. The exact location was not disclosed. The traffickers threw 300 caged birds overboard when they saw the coast guards. MMEA said it believed the birds were smuggled over land from Vietnam to Thailand, and then into Malaysia, which served as a transit point before the birds were to be smuggled into Indonesia for sale. Animal smuggling activities are regularly reported in Southeast Asia.

Mauritius: Update: Port-Louis closes ports, airport as storm makes landfall

18 January

Authorities closed all ports and airports in the country ahead of the expected landfall of cyclone Berguitta on 18 January. The storm weakened before hitting the island, with winds reducing to 75 km per hour. Local media reported flooding throughout the island. The storm is expected to directly hit Reunion later on 18 January. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the storm. Meteorologists estimated the storm would subside on 20 January.

Nigeria: Niger Delta Avengers threaten attacks against offshore oil sector

17 January

The armed group the Niger Delta Avengers threatened to recommence attacks against the country’s oil facilities, specifically deep sea operations run by multinational companies. The group, which demands royalties from Nigeria’s oil resources, reduced Nigeria’s oil output to historic lows in 2016, contributing to the country’s first recession in 25 years. The group previously threatened to resume attacks in late 2017 due to stagnating talks with local leaders.

Singapore: ReCAAP reports rise in maritime piracy in Asia in 2017

16 January

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP) has reported a rise in the number of maritime piracy and robbery incidents in Asian waters in 2017 compared to 2016, with ports and anchorages in Bangladesh, the Philippines, the South China Sea, and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore seeing particular increases. There were 101 incidents reported in Asia in 2017, a 19 percent increase from 2016’s 85 cases. Of the 101 incidents, 89 were successful robberies, while 12 were attempted robberies.

Tanzania: President bans registration of foreign ships, orders probe

19 January

President John Magufuli placed a temporary ban on the registration of foreign ships in the country, and also ordered more than 400 vessels to be investigated for alleged involvement in criminal activity. The ban came after at least five foreign-owned ships flying Tanzania’s flag were seized and found to be carrying illegal consignments of weapons and narcotics. Magufuli said the registration ban would be in place until the system of reflagging vessels was reviewed. Reflagging ships masks their ownership, facilitating the ability of criminal networks and sanctioned countries to obtain insurance and financing for cargoes.

Tunisia: Port agents strike in Sfax

17 January

Employees of the Ports and Fishing Facilities Agency in Sfax held a two-day strike over 17 and 18 January. The action was organised to demand improved working conditions. The extent of disruption was unclear from press reports.

United Arab Emirates: Government introduces financial security regulation for vessels
19 January

The Federal Transport Authority issued a new regulation that all UAE-flagged vessels trading internationally, and all vessels over 200 gross tonnage operating in UAE waters, should have an insurance contract to cover seafarers in event of abandonment, death or serious injury. The insurance should cover four months of owed wages and entitlement. The measures will be implemented from 18 February, and vessels found without proof of insurance will be prevented from calling at UAE ports.


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