Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Somalia: Pirates open fire on vessel 158 nm offshore

22 February

Pirates in three skiffs opened fire on the Singapore-flagged chemical tanker the Leopard Sun approximately 158 nm off the coast of central Somalia. The skiff approached the stern before firing on the tanker, prompting the vessel’s onboard armed security team to return fire. The attack lasted around 20 minutes and the master later confirmed that the vessel was safe. The attack occurred as the tanker transited between Sohar in Oman to Cape Town, South Africa.

Yemen: Skiff approaches tanker in Gulf of Aden

24 February

A fast-moving blue hulled skiff approached a tanker in the Gulf of Aden, south of Al Mahrah governorate, at 0810 hrs local time. The tanker activated its fire hoses and the skiff came within 200-300 m of the tanker before moving away. No weapons or boarding equipment were sighted on board the skiff.

PGI Analysis:The attack 158 nm off Somalia comes after a spate of attacks against vessels in the High Risk Area in 2017, and demonstrates pirates’ continued abilities to conduct attacks far out at sea during favourable weather conditions. The incidents come as attacks are expected to increase following the Indian Ocean monsoon season in December and January.



Benin: Merchant vessel reports attack in Cotonou harbour

27 February

A merchant vessel reported being attacked at 0115 hrs local time in Cotonou Harbour. No additional details were reported. Robbers often attempt to steal items from vessels in the Cotonou port area.

Nigeria: Pirates attack vessel off the coast of Bonny

24 February

A group of 10 armed pirates on a speedboat attacked a reefer vessel underway 40 nm southwest of Bonny Fairway buoy. Armed guards on board the vessel fired warning shots, leading to the pirates aborting the attack. The crew and ship were reported safe. The attack occurred at 1620 hrs local time.

Nigeria: Pirates chase cargo ship near Bonny Island

24 February

Around eight armed pirates in a speedboat chased a container vessel underway at 1116 hrs local time, around 50 nm south of Bonny Island. The alarm was raised and the SSAS alarm was also activated. Speed was increased and all non-essential crew retreated to the citadel. The Nigerian navy was contacted, and it informed the Master to rendezvous with a naval vessel in the area. As the pirate boat came closer, the Master conducted evasive manoeuvres. Due to the hardening measures, the pirates were unable to hook their ladder onto the vessel and moved away. The Nigerian navy escorted the vessel to the pilot boarding point.

Nigeria: Robbers board vessel off the coast of Lagos

20 February

A group of six robbers boarded a merchant vessel at 0245 hrs local time off the coast of Lagos. Personnel on board raised the alarm and the robbers jumped overboard to escape. The vessel did not report any goods were stolen. Robberies and theft from anchored vessels are common at Lagos port.

Nigeria: Armed pirates attempt to board oil tanker off the coast of Brass

19 February

A group of six pirates armed with Kalashnikov-style rifles approached an underway oil tanker at 0925 hrs local time 20 nm off the coast of Brass. The ship master raised the alarm and activated the ship’s security alert system. The captain took evasive manoeuvres, foiling six boarding attempts by the pirates. The gunmen opened fire on the tanker after failing to board and moved away. Both the crew and the tanker were reported safe after the incident.

PGI Analysis: Niger Delta-based pirates regularly conduct attacks in the Gulf of Guinea with the aim of kidnapping crew for ransom. Nigerian pirates are notoriously aggressive, well-armed and persistent in their attacks. Assailants are often successful in kidnapping crew, particularly if they fail to barricade themselves in their vessels’ citadels in the absence of armed security.

Select Maritime News 

Argentina: Coast guard shoots at Chinese vessel fishing illegally

22 February

Argentina’s coast guard shot at and pursued for eight hours a Chinese ship found to be illegally fishing in Argentine waters. No injuries were reported and none of the Chinese fishermen from the Jing Yuan 626 vessel were arrested. The Chinese embassy in Argentina did not comment on the incident.

China: Beijing investigates suspected breaches of Pyongyang sanctions

22 February

China’s foreign ministry told local media it is investigating allegations that a Chinese ship has been transferring cargo to a North Korean vessel in violation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang. The report came from Japan, whose military claimed that it had spotted an escort vessel marked with Chinese characters transferring cargo in the East China Sea. It is the third time in 2018 that Japan has reported a violation of international sanctions against Pyongyang, which have focused on cutting the regime off from its sources of funding, notably marine transfers of coal and other goods. China has said that it will punish any individuals or businesses violating the sanctions. China has long been accused of failing to properly enforce sanctions against Pyongyang.

Haiti: Robbers board tanker at Port Au Prince Anchorage

22 February

A crew member on routine rounds onboard an anchored tanker at Port Au Prince Anchorage noticed robbers armed with guns on the forecastle deck and raised the alarm at 0525 hrs local time. The crew mustered, prompting one of the robbers to fire a warning shot before they escaped. The crew and ship were reported safe.

Mexico: Ferry explosion at Playa del Carmen injures 24

21 February

At least 24 people were injured, with one person in a critical condition, after an explosion on a ferry at the pier of Playa del Carmen. Authorities said the explosion took place when passengers were disembarking from the boat. The cause of the incident remains unknown. The army was later deployed to guard the accident site and take control of the pier.

North Korea: Washington to crack down on vessels violating sanctions

23 February

The US Coast Guard plans to step up efforts to intercept ships suspected of violating sanctions on North Korea in Asia Pacific waters. The US is also looking to partner with other forces in the region including Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore. The plans would fall short of imposing a naval blockade against North Korea, which Pyongyang says would be considered an act of war. The reports come as Washington looks to step up sanctions against Pyongyang and ensure existing sanctions are enforced, as part of attempts to halt the government’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programme.

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