Weekly Maritime Security Report

Highlights key industry-specific incidents covered by PGI’s team of risk analysts during the past week:

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Bangladesh: Robbers board tanker at Chittagong Anchorage

12 April

According to a late report, three robbers armed with a metal rod boarded a product tanker anchored in Chittagong Anchorage at 1035 hrs local time. Crew sighted the robbers, who had arrived at the tanker in a small boat, mustered and raised the alarm. A robber hit the watch keeper with the metal rod enabling him to steal ship’s properties before escaping. The incident was reported to the Bangladesh Coast Guard who dispatched a patrol boat to search the area.

PGI Analysis:

The incident is unusual for Chittagong Anchorage, as most robberies occur overnight to avoid any confrontation with crew. Robbers are occasionally armed with knives at the anchorage, although most assailants are easily deterred, unlike the robbers on 12 April who were willing to use force to complete the theft. The incident underscores the need for vigilance while at anchor at Chittagong, where petty thefts from vessels are frequently reported.

Select Maritime News

Bangladesh: Authorities arrest shipping department engineer for bribery

12 April

Bangladesh’s Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) arrested SM Nazmul Haque, chief engineer of the Shipping Department, after he was caught red-handed taking a USD 6,021 bribe, the Dhaka Tribune reported. Undercover ACC officers reportedly carried out a sting operation, approaching Haque for a no objection certificate and approval of the design of a ship in exchange for a bribe. Bribes to secure government services are commonly reported in Bangladesh, which was ranked the second-most corrupt country in South Asia after Afghanistan in Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index.

China: Beijing holds large-scale naval display in disputed South China Sea

12 April 

President Xi Jinping presided over a large-scale naval display in the disputed South China Sea, the latest show of force by the country which is engaged in ongoing contests with the Philippines and Vietnam. State media showed footage of Xi boarding a destroyer before sailing to an unspecified location in the sea and watching the procession, which involved more than 10,000 naval officers, 76 fighter jets, and 48 warships and submarines. China has boosted its military in recent years, increasing tensions with regional neighbours and the US.

China: US carrier patrols disputed South China sea

10 April

A US aircraft carrier entered the disputed South China sea as part of ongoing naval patrols in the region. The action is in response to China building a series of islands with military facilities in the strategically important sea, which it claims sovereignty over. Washington has stated that recent US naval deployments to the disputed sea aim to reassure its allies, although such actions represent a direct challenge to China’s territorial claims.

Ghana: Authorities launch crackdown on maritime crime

14 April

Chief Staff Officer of the Ghana Navy Commodore Issah Yakubu, said that maritime security agencies had launched a crackdown on crime in Ghanaian waters. Yakubu added that authorities had seized two vessels caught illegally transferring fuel at sea. Both vessels were reported to be registered outside Ghana, with one from Nigeria. The announcement followed an increase in reports of piracy and other criminal activities in the waters of Ghana in recent months.

Indonesia: Jakarta seizes alleged slave ship off Aceh wanted by Interpol

10 April

Indonesian security authorities seized an alleged slave ship after a high-seas chase off Aceh province sparked by an Interpol alert after the vessel escaped capture in China and Mozambique. Interpol alerted the Indonesian authorities that the stateless STS-50 vessel which has been wanted for maritime crimes would be entering the country’s waters, and that there were concerns that the crew was being forced to work. The boat, captured around 95 km from Wah Island, had 20 Indonesians, two Ukrainians, and eight Russians on board. It has previously flown Japanese, South Korean and Mozambican flags and used names including Sea Breeze, Andrey Dolgov, and Aida. It is suspected of involvement in organised transnational crime.

Japan: Tokyo boosts patrols near disputed East China Sea islands

13 April

Japan has announced it will boost military patrols of disputed islands in the East China Sea, in response to increased Chinese military activity in the area. Two extra fighter jets will be deployed for patrols around the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Earlier in 2018, Japan spotted a Chinese submarine in the disputed waters. The dispute has escalated since 2012.

Libya: Navy intercepts 137 migrants off Zawiya

12 April

The navy intercepted 137 migrants off the coast of the northwestern city of Zawiya, local media reported. The migrants were mostly nationals from African countries, a navy official told the media. 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.

North Korea: UK deploys warship to Japan to help enforce Pyongyang sanctions

11 April

The UK’s Royal Navy has deployed a warship to Japan to help enforce UN sanctions imposed on North Korea, amid concerns over ongoing violations by Pyongyang-affiliated vessels. The HMS Sutherland arrived in Yokosuka, the headquarters of Japan’s Navy, on 11 April. It will monitor prohibited trade at sea by North Korea for about one month and will have the capability to board and inspect ships. The UK said it will send two other ships to Asia in the coming months to support the efforts.

Sri Lanka: Beijing to invest USD 800 mn to build Port City road network

11 April

China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) will invest USD 800 mn to build an underground road network to Sri Lanka’s Port City, Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Champika Ranawaka told reporters. The project is expected to reduce congestion on the existing route once the Port City – a USD 1.4 bn project built on reclaimed land – starts operating. More than 60 percent of the Port City’s area has been reclaimed from the sea in Colombo and is adjacent to the main port and the Galle Face Green park. Port City is part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative.

Vietnam: Hanoi considers law for coast guard to open fire to protect sovereignty

11 April

Parliament is considering a draft law that would allow its coast guard to open fire on other ships in order to protect Vietnam’s maritime territorial sovereignty. The law, expected to be voted on by lawmakers by the end of 2018, would give the coast guard more flexibility in the disputed South China Sea, where Vietnam is engaged in an active territorial contest with China. The draft law asserts that the coast guard could open fire to “protect sovereignty and sovereign rights in defence and security situations”. The law currently only allows the coast guard to open fire if their lives and safety in threatened, or in pursuit of offenders. Chinese and Vietnamese vessels frequently stand-off in the disputed waters around the Paracel islands.