Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Yemen: Vessel fires warning shots at skiffs in Bab el Mandeb
8 April

A vessel’s on board security team fired warning shots after three white-hulled skiffs, each with seven to eight persons on board, approached the ship in the Bab el Mandeb off Yemen at 1034 hrs local time. Weapons were sighted on two of the skiffs as they approached. The vessel attempted to contact a coalition war ship, although it received no answer during the incident. The shots were fired after crew mustered and other anti-piracy measures failed to deter the skiffs, which came within 150 m of the vessel. The vessel and crew were reported as safe.

PGI Analysis: Vessels frequently report activity by suspected pirates in the Bab el Mandeb area and the Gulf of Aden, although there has been an increase in reports since mid-2017. Attacks and suspicious approaches by armed men on board skiffs in the area have continued into 2018. However, due to the presence of armed security teams, no perpetrators have so far been successful in boarding a vessel in the area since the spate of hijackings off Somalia in April and May 2017.

Yemen: Coalition says Houthis hit Saudi oil tanker off Hodeidah
3 April

Houthi rebels hit the Saudi-flagged oil tanker Abqaiq in international waters off the western port city of Hodeidah, the Saudi-led coalition said. It was not immediately clear what weapon was used in the attack. The coalition said it conducted a “swift intervention” to foil the attack, and that the vessel was able to continue its course despite being lightly hit. An EU naval force operating in the area confirmed that the crew were unharmed, without providing further details. The Houthis stated that they had struck a coalition warship in response to an airstrike that killed 12 civilians on 3 April. The Saudi energy minister said that the attack would not impact oil supplies, with Saudi sources confirming that oil operations were proceeding normally, Reuters reported. The incident comes amid heightened tensions after the Houthis launched a string of missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.

PGI Analysis: Further reports since the incident indicate that the vessel was hit by a land-launched anti-ship guided missile. The Saudi Press Agency have since released a photo of the vessel showing a hole above the waterline. The attack has only had a minimal impact on shipping in the region however, and did not impact the flow of ships in the Red Sea or alter the status of any operational Yemeni ports.

The strike does however raise concerns as the target of the attack was a commercial oil tanker, owned by Saudi private shipping company Bahri, as opposed to a warship belonging to members of the Saudi-led coalition who are currently fighting Houthi militants in Yemen. The vessel was however likely targeted due to its links with Saudi Arabia and reports further indicate it was being escorted by a Saudi warship when it was hit.

Indonesia: Robbers board vessel at Muara Berau Anchorage
28 March

Two robbers boarded an anchored bulk carrier at Muara Berau Anchorage, East Kalimantan province, at 0430 hrs local time. Duty crew noticed the robbers and raised the alarm, prompting them to flee empty-handed.

PGI Analysis: Robberies are common at anchorages across Southeast Asia, particularly in the early hours of the morning or overnight when visibility is reduced. Most robbers are easily deterred although some are armed with knives and have been known to threaten and tie up crew, underscoring the need for vigilance while at anchor in the region.

Indonesia: Robbers steal from tanker anchored off Samarinda
5 April

Robbers boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Muara Berau Anchorage, Samarinda, during cargo operations at 0400 hrs local time. The robbers broke into the forepeak store and stole ship’s stores before escaping unnoticed. The crew raised the alarm after noticing a suspicious boat near the vessel and upon searching the ship, found that the robbers had stolen ship’s stores.

PGI Analysis: Petty thefts are common at Muara Berau Anchorage although most robbers are easily deterred and steal small items which are easy to carry, rather than attempting more sophisticated cargo theft operations. There have been several reports of robbers armed with long knives at the anchorage however and robbers have occasionally taken crews hostage to commit thefts.

Nigeria: Armed pirates board vessel 50 nm off Niger Delta
7 April

Four armed pirates attacked and boarded a commercial vessel 50 nm south of Bonny River, Niger Delta. Crew mustered in the citadel and no injuries were reported. Further details of the incident were not immediately disclosed.

Nigeria: Armed pirates chase, open fire on tanker off Bonny Island
3 April

Around 10-12 armed pirates chased and opened fire on a Panama-flagged product tanker, 60 nm southwest of Bonny Island at 1739 hrs local time. The alarm was raised and non-essential crew retreated into the citadel. The master conducted evasive manoeuvres and due to the presence of the on board Naval team, the pirates aborted the attack and moved away.

PGI Analysis: Pirates regularly target vessels in the Gulf of Guinea, although many attacks go unreported. Heightened levels of pirate attacks, especially kidnappings, have persisted off Nigeria since the initial upsurge in attacks in January 2016 amid an increase in militancy in the Niger Delta. Attacks have continued as pirates continue to take advantage of the weak maritime security environment in the region.

Select Maritime News

Brazil: Armed robbers board bulk carrier off Macapa Port

4 April

Two robbers armed with long knives boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier anchored 6 nm northeast of Macapa Port at 0350 hrs local time. Crew noticed the robbers and raised the alarm, causing the robbers to escape into their speedboat before they could steal any goods.

Ghana: Nigerien authorities look to increase trade through Ghanaian ports

4 April

Nigerien authorities called on the Ghanaian port authority and key trade facilitators to position the Ghanaian corridor to attract more traffic from Niger. Niamey has so far favoured Francophone ports in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Guinea and Senegal, although high operation costs, poor transportation networks, delays and political instability in these countries are forcing Niger to look for new partners to diversify import-export trade.

Guyana: Georgetown considering new offer of deep, shallow water oil blocks

3 April

Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman told Reuters that the government is planning to hire consultants to help value and negotiate its remaining offshore areas. Trotman added that a list of qualified candidates for the position had been identified but no oil auctions were yet planned. Guyana could make blocks available in shallow water as well as in a deepwater area some 241 km off the country’s coast.

Indonesia: Pertamina confirms oil spill off Borneo caused by burst pipe

4 April

State oil firm Pertamina has confirmed that a major oil spill of the island of Borneo was caused by a ruptured undersea pipeline. The spill started in waters near Balikpapan port city on 31 March and has spread over an area of 26 km. Five fishermen have died after the oil caught fire. The authorities declared a state of emergency on 4 April in order to facilitate the clean-up effort. Pertamina had initially denied responsibility, but admitted that the source of the leak was a burst pipe laid about 25 metres below the surface.

Israel: Security forces report foiled militant attack on navy ship

4 April

The internal security services arrested ten Islamic Jihad militants suspected of planning an attack against a navy ship off the Gaza coast last month, officials said in a statement. The ten suspects were planning to sink the boat with an anti-tank missile and kidnap any survivors, the statement added. They had carried out several observation missions ahead of the planned attack. They were arrested on 12 March aboard a vessel that had left Gaza’s designated fishing zone and confessed to planning the attack. Islamic Jihad has carried out two mortar attacks against Israeli forces after the army destroyed an attack tunnel belonging to the group in late October.

Libya: Navy intercepts 202 migrants off Sabratha

9 April

The navy said it intercepted 202 migrants in two separate operations off the northwestern town of Sabratha. Some 92 migrants were intercepted in the first operation and 102 in the second one. The migrants were all nationals of African countries, the navy said in a statement. Libya remains an important transit country for migrants trying to reach European shores, although departures have dropped significantly in recent months due to anti-human smuggling measures.

Maldives: Truck drivers threaten strike over daytime delivery

6 April

Drivers of lorries and pick-up trucks in the Maldives warned of a strike to protest a ban on transporting and unloading merchandise from warehouses and shops during daytime in the capital Malé to ease traffic congestion. The drivers said that the ban, introduced on 31 March, forced them to work at odd hours, putting their health at risk. The warning comes after dockworkers at the Malé port staged a strike over the issue, which ended after the government doubled their fees. It is not clear when the drivers plan to launch their strike, and the government has not commented on the matter.

Pakistan: Navy seizes container with illicit alcohol

3 April

The Pakistani navy along with the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) seized a large container filled with illicit alcohol, which was being smuggled through the Arabian Sea, authorities said. The contraband reportedly included 9,392 bottles of liquor and 45,218 cans of beer worth about USD 600,000. PMSA Director-General Rear Admiral Zaka Ur Rehman said that the smugglers attempted to sink the ship when they saw the navy and PMSA personnel approach the vessel and escaped on speedboats. PMSA oversees security in Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

Saudi Arabia: Riyadh mulls plan to dig maritime canal along Doha border

9 April

Saudi Arabia’s state-linked Sabq and al-Riyadh reported a proposal to dig a maritime canal along the Kingdom’s closed border with Qatar. The proposal would effectively make the peninsula-nation into an island. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar since June 2017 and sought to isolate Doha over accusations of supporting terrorism.

Singapore: ICJ to hold public hearings over Pedra Branca sovereignty dispute

5 April

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has announced it will hold public hearings in June over two cases brought by Malaysia against Singapore on the disputed sovereignty of Pedra Branca. The first case relates to Malaysia’s application for revision of the ICJ’s 2008 judgment which handed sovereignty of Pedra Branca to Singapore. The second case concerns Malaysia’s request for interpretation of that ICJ judgment. Pedra Branca was first claimed as a territory of the Johor Sultanate in 1979, before Singapore protested and brought the case to the ICJ in 2008.

Thailand: Customs seizes 28 kg of heroin at Bangkok port

8 April

Customs officials seized 28 kg of heroin reportedly worth around USD 3.1 mn at Bangkok’s Khlong Toey port. The heroin was reportedly stored in a shipment of hollowed-out rubber pillows bound for Hong Kong from Khlong Toey port. Officials of the importing company were reportedly taken for questioning by customs before being handed to narcotics police for further investigation.

Yemen: UN to increase inspection of aid ships bound for Yemen

5 April

The UN has stated it will step up its inspections of aid ships bound for Yemen, in order to counter smuggling of military items and to ensure quicker delivery of essential relief supplies. The decision is in response to the increase of Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia.