Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Yemen: Skiffs approach merchant vessel in Bab el Mandeb strait

8 March

A merchant vessel reported that it was approached by three skiffs 6 nm south of Perim Island in the Bab el Mandeb strait at 1220 hrs local time. Further details of the incident were not disclosed, although the incident marks the latest report of suspected pirate activity in the strait in recent weeks.

Yemen: Vessel reports suspicious activity in Gulf of Aden

6 March

A commercial vessel reported that three large dhows and two skiffs came within 1.1 nm of the vessel and made several manoeuvres around the vessel between 1855 hrs and 2000 hrs local time in the Gulf of Aden. The vessel sounded its fog horn and activated fire hoses, prompting the suspicious skiffs and dhows to move away.

PGI Analysis: Suspicious approaches are often reported in the waters off Yemen, although it is unclear if the 6 and 8 March reports are connected to piracy, fishing or the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Vessels are advised to exercise caution and comply with Best Management 4 (BMP4) measures when transiting the area, where both criminal pirate gangs and armed groups linked to the Yemen conflict are known to operate.



Ghana: Speedboats approach vessel off Takoradi

8 March

Three speedboats approached a merchant vessel at 1700 hrs local time 65 nm off Takoradi. The persons on board the speedboats were wearing camouflage clothing and carrying weapons.

PGI Analysis: The report comes after a similar incident was reported 32 nm off Takoradi on 1 March and two attacks took place off Benin this year amid an uptick in piracy west of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea. The attacks could mark the beginning of a wider trend of pirates operating further west of Nigeria, where vessels are more likely to relax security measures away from Nigerian Navy patrols.

Nigeria: Kidnappers free four crew members after two and a half weeks

9 March

Four people who were kidnapped by robbers off a shipping vessel on 9 February were released unharmed. The three Russian nationals and one Filipino national were released following negotiations between their employer Seatrade and the kidnappers. Seatrade would not confirm whether a ransom had been paid.

Nigeria: Gunmen attack vessel off Bonny Islands

6 March

Gunmen on two speedboats attacked a Malta-flagged tanker at 1020 hrs local time 23 nm south-southwest of Bonny Island off the Niger Delta. Pirates boarded the tanker and crew mustered in the citadel and the alarm was raised. The Nigerian Navy were also alerted. A speedboat was seen leaving the tanker hours later as the attackers were unable to take any hostages. All crew were reported as safe although the bridge windows and the vessel sustained damage from the gunfire.

PGI Analysis: Niger Delta-based pirate groups regularly conduct attacks off the coast of Bonny Island, targeting merchant vessels and tankers in kidnap-for-ransom attacks. The boarding on 6 March illustrates the Nigerian Navy’s poor response capabilities and vessels’ reliance on their own security measures, such as ensuring crew are able to rapidly barricade themselves into the citadel, to ensure crew remain safe in the event of an attack.

Select Maritime News

Argentina: Authorities issue capture order for five Chinese boats

8 March

A federal judge issued an international capture order for five Chinese boats allegedly illegally fishing in local waters. One of the boats was detected fishing illegally in Argentina’s exclusive economic zone off Patagonia by the coast guard on 21 February, prompting a chase. Illegal fishing by Chinese boats has strained largely positive relations between Argentina and China.

Australia: Canberra to press Beijing on South China Sea dispute

13 March

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a speech at the Australia-ASEAN summit in Sydney that she will press China to abide by international law in the South China Sea, where Beijing has ignored international rulings on the jurisdiction of disputed island chains. Australia is trying to build a coalition against Chinese assertiveness. Bishop denounced China for using its economic and military power to impose unfair measures on smaller nations. China is mainly engaged in disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam over the Spratly and Paracel island chains respectively.

East Timor: Dili, Canberra sign key maritime border treaty

7 March

East Timor and Australia have signed a historic maritime border treaty related to the Timor Sea, ending a decade-long dispute over rights to offshore oil and gas reserves. The treaty is expected to establish special arrangements for the countries to share the revenue from the Greater Sunrise offshore gas fields, which have an estimated worth of USD 40-50 bn. East Timor has hailed the deal as a “game changer”. A bilateral commission is expected to soon release a report on the various options to develop the Greater Sunrise gas fields.

India: Coast guard arrests five Sri Lankan fishermen for poaching

12 March

The Indian Coast Guard arrested five fishermen from Sri Lanka for allegedly violating the international maritime boundary and poaching marine resources near Kodiyakkarai in Nagapattinam district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The fishermen, along with their boats, were brought to Karaikal port. According to a preliminary investigation, the fishermen ventured into the sea from Trincomalee in Sri Lanka on 28 February and drifted into Indian waters due to rough weather conditions, the New Indian Express reported. Fishermen from India and Sri Lanka are regularly arrested for straying into one another’s territorial waters due to a disputed maritime boundary.

Libya: Navy intercepts over 250 migrants

10 March

The navy intercepted over 250 migrants in two separate operations, local media reported. Some 140 migrants were stopped off the town of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, before being transferred to a detention centre. Another 112 migrants were intercepted off the town of Garabulli, east of the Tripoli, in a separate operation on the same day. Libya’s western coast remains the main departure point for migrants trying to reach European shores, although numbers have dropped significantly in recent months due to anti-human smuggling measures.

Mexico: Copenhagen, Mexico City sign maritime cooperation agreement

9 March

Denmark and Mexico signed a maritime cooperation agreement which aims to solidify collaboration on a number of maritime issues, including digitalisation and green shipping. The agreement is part of a strategic partnership agreement signed by the two countries in April 2017 to strengthen their political and economic ties.

Somalia: Kismayo resumes illicit charcoal exports despite ban

8 March

The port of Kismayo in Jubbaland has resumed charcoal exports, despite a UN ban, according to images obtained by local news site Radio Shabelle. The images show large quantities of charcoal being loaded onto vessels docked at Kismayo port in Lower Juba province. An anonymous port worker told Radio Shabelle that the shipments were destined for the Middle East, predominantly Oman, Iran, and the UAE.

Thailand: UN cites improving labour conditions in seafood industry

8 March

A new UN study has found that “abysmal” labour conditions in Thailand’s controversial seafood industry have begun to improve, after long-standing accusations of slave labour and trafficking of migrant workers in order to staff the country’s fishing fleets. The new report by the International Labour Organisation, which surveyed 434 workers in 11 provinces in March-April 2017, cautioned that labour abuses are persisting despite some improvements. In 2015 the EU threatened to ban Thai seafood products due to the labour violations and rampant illegal fishing, which prompted the Thai government to take some measures to improve the situation.

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