Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Yemen: Four skiffs approach merchant vessel in Bab el Mandeb

1 March

A merchant vessel reported that it was approached by three white skiffs and one blue skiff in the Bab el Mandeb. The skiffs came within 0.5 nm of the vessel, and crew potentially sighted ladders and drums on board the skiffs. The vessel and crew were later reported safe.

PGI Analysis: Suspicious activity is regularly reported in the Bab el Mandeb and vessels are advised to exercise caution and comply with Best Management 4 (BMP4) measures when transiting the area. Both criminal pirate gangs and armed groups linked to the Yemen conflict are known to operate in the area. The Houthi rebel group has repeatedly threatened shippers in the area, particularly those perceived to be linked to the Saudi-led coalition, and in January threatened to block the Red Sea shipping lane.



Indonesia: Robbers board bulk carrier at Tanjung Priok Anchorage

3 March

Duty crew sighted two robbers on board a bulk carrier on the aft deck while at anchor at Tanjung Priok Anchorage at 1045 hrs local time. The robbers escaped using a boat when they realised they had been sighted. Nothing was reported stolen.

PGI Analysis: Petty thefts are commonly reported at anchorages across Southeast Asia, with many more incidents thought to go unreported. Robbers typically target ships’ stores overnight to take advantage of low light conditions, underscoring the need for vigilance while at anchor in the region. Robbers are often easily deterred although there have been increasing reports of armed robbers willing to use force to carry out robberies in recent months.



Benin: Update: Authorities release further details on attack at Cotonou

26 February

Further details of the attack on a tanker anchored at Cotonou Anchorage emerged. Five armed pirates boarded the vessel, opened fire on crew, and took a member of the crew hostage. They then demanded the Master, Chief Officer and Chief Engineer come on the bridge and for the Master to draw up the anchor. Crew informed the attackers that the tanker was in ballast, and the Navy intervened resulting in the release of the Captain and Chief Engineer. A Navy Guard was injured during the incident.

Ghana: Two speedboats approach cargo vessel near Takoradi

1 March

A cargo vessel reported that it was approached by two speedboats at 1200 hrs local time around 32 nm south east of Takoradi, Ghana. The vessel changed course and increased its speed, causing the speedboats to abort their pursuit. The vessel and crew were later reported safe. Suspicious activity and attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are more common in Nigerian than Ghanaian waters, but counter piracy operations may displace activities to other countries in the region.

PGI Analysis:The attacks off Benin and Ghana could mark the beginning of a wider trend of pirates in the region targeting vessels further west of Nigeria to evade counter piracy operations by the Nigerian Navy. Such incidents are rarely reported at Cotonou Anchorage and most violent attacks against vessels occur further out at sea. The incident marks the third major security breach in the waters off Cotonou this year after the MT BARRET and MT MARINE EXPRESS were hijacked from the same area on 10 January and 1 February, respectively.

Select Maritime News

Albania: Authorities seize 613 kg of cocaine at Durres port

28 February

Police seized 613 kg of cocaine hidden in a container of bananas at Durres port, marking one of the largest drug seizures to ever take place in the country. The shipment originated in Colombia and had arrived at the port via Italy and Malta. Police added they had detained two suspects, one of whom had driven the truck transporting the container to a warehouse. Albania is an important transit route for cocaine and heroin for European consumers.

Bangladesh: Police say two pirates killed in gunfight in Barguna

5 March

Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said that two members of a Sundarbans-based pirate gang were killed in a gun fight with security forces in Barguna in south-central Bangladesh. RAB officials said the gang opened fire on the security forces, triggering clashes. Two single barrel guns, four pipe guns, 39 bullets, and explosives, along with sharp weapons, were recovered following the firefight. Authorities periodically report clashes with pirate groups that operate in and around the Sundarbans.

Colombia: Government planning to add 17 new terminals

4 March

The Chamber of Infrastructure announced it was planning to construct 17 new terminals. Of this number, three tenders have already been made, eight have agreed terms and conditions before the tender and six are finalising terms and conditions. Three are privately owned while 14 are in the public sector. Some of the largest investments will be in the cities of Buenaventura and Cartagena.

Greece: Landslide blocks Corinth Canal

28 February

Heavy rains triggered a landslide which blocked the Corinth Canal, a busy shipping route for smaller vessels between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Sources at the canal said the route is likely to remain closed for around 15 days to repair damages from the landslide.

Kuwait: Coastguard foils drug smuggling attempt

1 March

Coastguard patrols arrested three people for attempting to smuggle drugs into the country. The suspects’ vessel illegally entered Kuwaiti waters from the south and was found to be carrying 128 packets of undisclosed drugs. Local media said that the three suspects were Iranian nationals.

Mexico: Washington issues alert after ferry explosion

1 March

The US embassy in Mexico issued a security alert over the February blast on a tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen, which it says was caused by ‘an explosive device.’ The alert warned US citizens to exercise caution and stated Mexican authorities were continuing investigations into the incident, which injured at least 24 people. On 1 March, two more explosive devices were discovered attached to another ferry on the island of Cozumel, prompting the deployment of marines to secure the area.

Philippines: Judge rules out South China Sea gas deal without sovereignty recognition

5 March

A Philippine judge has ruled out the possibility of Manila and Beijing forming a joint oil and gas exploration and extraction deal for the South China Sea without a recognition of the Philippines’ sovereignty over the waters that fall within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Manila has identified two areas of the sea that are suitable for joint gas projects with Chinese state-owned firm China National Offshore Oil Corp, including Reed Bank which falls both within the EEZ and China’s vague “nine-dash line” that outlines its territorial claims in the South China Sea. Antonio Carpio, the top acting judge on the Philippine Supreme Court, said any such deal would be illegal.

Philippines: Manila in talks with Chinese state firm over joint South China Sea oil exploration

1 March

The Philippine government has confirmed that it is in talks with a Chinese state firm for joint oil and gas exploration and extraction operations in the disputed South China Sea. President Rodrigo Duterte has described the proposed deal as akin to “co-ownership” of the contested waters, which have been the focal point of heightened tensions between the countries since 2012. He did not specify which Chinese company was involved in the talks or what area of the South China Sea is being considered for exploration. Duterte has prioritised a rapprochement with China since coming to power in April 2016, though tensions continue to flare up over China’s militarisation of the islands in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.

Puerto Rico: Authorities close beaches, highways amid rough seas

4 March

The Department of Public Security announced the evacuation of residents and closure of beaches and highways along the country’s northern coast due to rough seas, with waves of up to 6 metres reported. The rough seas were caused by a low-pressure system which could lead to flooding along the western and northern parts of the country until 5 March.

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