Weekly Maritime Security Report

Select Maritime News
Bangladesh: Armed robbers steal from vessel, threaten crew at Kutubdia Anchorage

30 January

Five robbers armed with knives boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Kutubdia Anchorage before threatening a member of the duty crew. Crew sighted the robbers and raised the alarm, prompting the assailants to flee with ship’s stores. The Bangladesh Coast Guard boarded the ship for investigation before successfully returning the stolen goods to the ship.

Colombia: Coast guard seizes cocaine, detains smugglers on vessel off Cartagena

29 January

Members of the navy and coast guard arrested ten drug smugglers and seized 185 kg of cocaine aboard the German-flagged containership Rotterdam Express, 12 nautical miles off the coast of Cartagena. The vessel, which is operated by German shipping major Hapag-Lloyd, continued its voyage following the incident. Data provided by MarineTraffic showed that the ship departed the Colombian port on January 25 and was bound for the port of Caucedo, Dominican Republic. Drug seizures are common in Colombia’s airports and ports.

Costa Rica: UN rules in favour of San José in Nicaragua territorial dispute

2 February

The UN’s highest court ruled in favour of Costa Rica in a territorial dispute with Nicaragua on 2 February. Nicaragua has been ordered by the International Court of Justice in The Hague to remove its military base from the contested coastal area near the San Juan River. The court granted Costa Rica sovereignty over the “whole part of Isla Portillos, including the coast” but excluding the Harbour Head Lagoon. In a separate case heard on the same day, Nicaragua was ordered to pay Costa Rica USD 379,000 for environmental damage caused to wetlands at the mouth of the San Juan River. The dispute has centred on oil concessions granted by Nicaragua and disputed by Costa Rica.

Iran: Tehran claims change in US navy behaviour

29 January

A senior Iranian military official said that US vessels patrolling near Iran had changed their behaviour, leading to a reduction in tensions. Rear Admiral Ali Ozmaei of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said US vessels now abided by international regulations in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Days earlier, US military officials said that the Iranian military had ceased their regular “harassment” of American naval vessels. In recent years, US and Iranian military ships have engaged in repeated hostile interactions in the region, raising fears of an unintended escalation of hostilities.

Kiribati: Australian, NZ, US planes search for survivors from missing ferry

31 January

Australian, New Zealand and US aircraft conducted searches in the central Pacific Ocean on 31 January after confirming that a ferry heading to the island nation of Kiribati has gone missing with 80 passengers aboard. The 17-metre catamaran ferry was reported missing on 20 January, two days after it departed Nonouti Island on a 250 km trip to Kiribati’s Betio. Seven people rescued said that the ferry broke up and sank. Other details of the incident remain unclear.

Libya: Migrant boat capsizes off coast, leaving 90 missing

2 February

Some 90 migrants are feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya early on 2 February, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Survivors have told aid workers that most of the migrants on board were Pakistanis, who make up a growing number of migrants attempting the dangerous cross-Mediterranean voyage to Italy, according to the IOM. The incident highlights the ongoing migrant crisis, despite attempts by the EU and Turkey to limit the number of refugees reaching Europe. The boat capsized off Libya’s Zuwara town, which has been a favoured departure site for migrants.

Nigeria: Union calls off port strike

5 February

The Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) called off an indefinite strike at all Nigerian ports scheduled for 6 February. The union leadership said that the government had intervened and promised a meeting to address the union’s demands. MWUN demanded immediate improvement works on roads leading to and from ports, especially in Lagos. Authorities did not immediately announce the date of the proposed meeting.

Seychelles: New Delhi, Port Victoria agree deal to build naval facilities

31 January

India has signed a 20-year deal with the Seychelles to build an airstrip and a naval jetty in the island nation, amid increasing efforts by India to counter China’s growing military influence in the Indian Ocean. The military facilities will be set up on the Assumption islands, and Seychelles Foreign Secretary Barry Faure said that the facilities, which will be entirely under Seychelles control, will be built by India free of charge.

Turkey: Erdogan advisor warns Athens over disputed islets

1 February

A chief advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Yigit Bulut, warned the Greek government over its claims to the islets of Imia in the Aegean Sea. Bulut threatened violence against Greek officers and ministers, including Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, should they step onto the islands in a statement made on Turkish television. The islets have been a long-running source of tensions between Ankara and Athens, and the two sides’ coastguards had a six-hour standoff over the area earlier in January.

Venezuela: Armed robbers steal from crew, vessel at Puerto La Cruz Anchorage

31 January

Seven robbers armed with knives boarded an anchored tanker and took a member of duty crew hostage before threatening him with a knife, tying him up and stealing his safety shoes and radio. Another crew member sighted the incident and raised the alarm, prompting the robbers to flee. Ship’s stores were found to be stolen.



Oman: Suspicious skiffs approach tanker in Gulf of Oman

4 February

Two suspicious skiffs approached a tanker in the Gulf of Oman and conducted aggressive manoeuvres, coming within 500 m of the vessel. The armed security team displayed weapons and the crew mustered, prompting the skiffs to move away. No weapons or ladders were sighted on board the skiffs.

PGI Analysis: Several similar incidents have been reported in the Gulf of Oman since May 2017 and PGI sources have linked the incidents to weapon smuggling in the region, although this remains unconfirmed. Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni government have accused Iran of sending weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen and a Reuters report in 2016 said Iran was transferring weapons to the Houthis via Oman, allegations which Muscat has denied. 



Vietnam: Armed robbers injure crew at Godau Port

31 January

Two robbers armed with knives boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Godau Port before taking the Bosun hostage, threatening and injuring him with their knives and tying him up. The Bosun freed himself and informed the master, who raised the alarm and the crew mustered. Ship’s stores were found to be stolen. The Bosun required medical treatment onshore, although the extent of his injuries were not reported.

PGI Analysis: Reports of violent robberies have increased at Southeast Asian ports and anchorages in recent months, although crew rarely suffer injuries in such attacks. Robbers are frequently armed with knives in the area and often tie up or threaten crew in order to steal ship’s stores, underscoring the need for vigilance in the region.



Benin: Pirates release vessel, 22 crew members at unspecified location

6 February

Ship operator Anglo-Eastern said in a statement that pirates had released the MT Marine Express and 22 crew on board. The company reported that crew were safe and that the cargo of 12,247 tonnes of gasoline was still on board. The company did not say where the vessel was released or whether a ransom was paid.

PGI Analysis: The identity of the assailants remains unclear, but most hijackings in the Gulf of Guinea are perpetrated by Niger Delta-based pirates. The majority of pirate attacks occur off the coast of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, although this hijacking marks the second off Cotonou this year, following the hijacking of the product tanker Barrett on 13 January. The tanker and crew were also released days later. 

Nigeria: Robber boards vessel at Lagos Anchorage

31 February

Duty crew on board a chemical tanker at Lagos Anchorage sighted two small boats tied up to the anchor chain and one robber on the forecastle deck. The Duty Officer raised the alarm and sounded the fog horn, prompting the assailant to flee. A Nigerian Navy patrol boat was notified and searched the waters around the tanker. Nothing was reported stolen.

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