Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Yemen: Skiffs approach merchant vessel in Gulf of Aden

18 February

Several suspicious skiffs approached a merchant vessel at 0830 hrs local time near Point B in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC). The skiffs then moved away and the vessel was reported safe.

PGI Analysis: Further details of the attack, such as whether weapons or ladders were sighted on the skiff were not disclosed. There has been a prolonged uptick in pirate activity off the coast of Yemen since March 2017 when the Aris 13 was hijacked off north Somalia, although this trend has seen a slight decrease in the region during the winter monsoon season in December and January. Heightened levels of activity could resume in the coming months, however.

 

Philippines: Suspected ASG militants attack cargo ship off Basilan

16 February

A captain reported that his cargo vessel came under attack by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants off the province of Basilan as it transited between Davao City and Manila. The assailants arrived in three motorboats and attempted to board the vessel. Two of the crew suffered minor injuries as they sprayed the attackers with hot water mixed with oil while they waited for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to arrive. A PCG official said the assailants fled when they sighted the rescue vessels and the coast guard then proceeded to escort the ship to Zamboanga City.

PGI Analysis: Attacks by suspected ASG militants against vessels in the Sulu and Celebes seas have declined significantly since mid-2017 due to increased security efforts to combat the group on both land and at sea. Security forces arrested several ringleaders behind many of the kidnap attacks in 2017, and Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia also introduced long-delayed joint maritime patrols in June 2017. The recent attempt indicates that although security forces have served to deter and supress attacks, the possibility of the resumption of kidnap attacks by the group in the region cannot be discounted.

 

 

Benin: Pirates board tanker at Cotonou Anchorage, damage vessel

17 February

Three armed pirates boarded a tanker anchored at Cotonou Anchorage in Benin. The crew noticed the armed men and raised the alarm before retreating to the citadel. Benin authorities dispatched three patrol boats to the site, with the navy boarding the vessel. On confirmation from the patrol team that the tanker was clear of pirates, the Master and crew emerged from the citadel. Investigations discovered that the ship’s office port hole was damaged due to a gunshot, while other ship’s property was also found damaged.

PGI Analysis: Security at Cotonou port is often understaffed, undermining security at the port and leaving vessels at anchor vulnerable to crime, including armed robberies. Although such reports are infrequent, many incidents are thought to go unreported.

Nigeria: Pirates attack merchant vessel off the coast of Brass

19 February

Pirates attacked a merchant vessel underway at 0830 hrs local time 20 nm off the coast of Brass. There were no initial reports detailing the attack, but the vessel and crew were reported safe.

Nigeria: Pirates attack merchant vessel off Bonny Island

15 February

A merchant vessel reported that it came under attack around 45 nm off Bonny Island in the Niger Delta, although it later reported that the attack had ended and that it was safe.

PGI Analysis: Further details of the incidents were not provided, although criminal kidnap groups often target commercial vessels in the waters off Nigeria. Pirates are notoriously aggressive and persistent in pursuit of commercial vessels off the Niger Delta coastline, and are often successful in kidnapping crew from vessels without armed security or a citadel in which crew members can barricade themselves in.

Select Maritime News

Brazil: Theft from bulk carrier at Macapa anchorage

15 February

The officer of the watch noticed a forecastle door open and unauthorised persons on the forward deck of an anchored bulk carrier at Macapa anchorage at 0425 hrs local time. The alarm was raised and crew mustered. The robbers escaped upon seeing the alerted crew. After the vessel was searched, ship’s stores were reported stolen.

India: Blast at shipyard in Kerala kills five

13 February

A blast at Cochin Shipyard in the southern state of Kerala left five people dead, local authorities said. The blast reportedly occurred on 12 February on a drilling ship that was docked in the shipyard for repairs. Authorities said that no further casualties were expected as all the survivors on board had been rescued. The cause of the blast is yet to be determined. The vessel is owned by India’s biggest oil explorer, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.

Ghana: Authorities withdraw cargo tracking measure at ports

16 February

Authorities withdrew the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) at ports after businesses complained it increased costs and hindered business. The CTN was introduced by government to track all imports to Ghana to reduce revenue losses associated with under-declaration of goods at ports. Accra has stepped up efforts to accelerate administrative processes at ports to facilitate business activity.

Ghana: Navy calls for more resources to tackle fuel smuggling

16 February

The Western Naval Command of Ghana’s navy called on the government to provide sufficient resources and equipment to tackle fuel smuggling. Flag Officer Commanding Commodore Issaac Kuffor said that several fishing communities near the border had given up fishing to smuggle oil to neighbouring countries. The government has estimated that some USD 223.6 mn is lost to fuel smuggling annually.

Philippines: Manila cites rising risk of miscalculation, conflict in South China Sea

19 February

The Philippine ambassador to China, Chito Romana, has said that the risk of miscalculation leading to armed conflict in the South China Sea is rising as China continues to threaten the US’s historic dominance in the region. Speaking at a forum in Manila, the ambassador said that the balance of power in the region is shifting towards Beijing, as it has expanded its communications links and military facilities on artificial islands in the contested sea. The same day, President Rodrigo Duterte played down the warning, saying that China’s military infrastructure in the South China Sea was built to defend against the US rather than to confront regional neighbours. The Philippine government has repeatedly voiced conflicting views on the conflict since Duterte came to power in June 2016.

Philippines: Manila objects to Beijing naming undersea features on its continental shelf

14 February

The Philippines said it would oppose what it claimed were Beijing’s attempts to formally assign Chinese names to undersea features on part of Manila’s continental shelf on its Pacific Ocean coast, Reuters reported. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Manila would raise the issue with an international ocean mapping agency under the UN. The contested area, Benham Rise, was designated by the UN in 2012 as within the jurisdiction of the Philippines. China has not made any overt attempt to rename the features, although a foreign ministry spokesperson in Beijing said the naming of such features was permitted.

Venezuela: Robbers board tanker at Puerto La Cruz

15 February

Three robbers armed with knives boarded an anchored product tanker at 0112 hrs local time at Puerto La Cruz Anchorage. Duty able seamen on routine rounds saw the robbers and notified the officer of the watch. The alarm was raised and crew mustered, prompting the robbers to escape with stolen ship’s stores.

 

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