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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United Arab Emirates: Suspected pirates shoot at Emirati fishing boat in Gulf of Oman

28 April

Suspected pirates opened fire on an Emirati fishing boat in the Gulf of Oman, local media reported. A group of unidentified men shot at the vessel with assault rifles while it was in international waters 90 km off the coast of Fujairah, the owner of the fishing boat said. The boat’s crew managed to escape but the vessel’s engine sustained heavy damage in the attack.

PGI Analysis: The incident marks the second report of suspicious activity in the Gulf of Oman this year and comes after a tanker reported an aggressive approach by two skiffs in the area in February. There are sporadic reports of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Oman, some of which have been linked to smuggling in the region. Anonymous sources in the region reported in 2017 that the Gulf of Oman has increasingly been used to ship weapons from Iran to Houthi militants in Yemen, who have been fighting against the Saudi Arabia-led coalition since 2015.


Malaysia: Authorities arrest five over fishermen’s kidnapping

26 April

Authorities arrested five men for allegedly kidnapping three Malaysian fishermen and demanding a ransom of USD 7,500 for their release. The pirates were apprehended after a joint operation by Indonesian and Malaysian forces. On 24 April, the Southern Region Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) received a distress call from a local fishing boat about 15 nm southwest off Tanjung Laboh, Batu Pahat, Johor. The five Indonesians were reportedly armed with machetes and guns.

 PGI Analysis: The kidnapping took place in the Malacca Strait, which has long been a hotspot for piracy in the region, although attacks in the region have declined in recent years. The perpetrators behind the attack are unknown although previous kidnappings in the region by Islamist Abu Sayyaf Group have been concentrated in the Sulu and Celebes seas, indicating those behind this incident were likely criminals


Ghana: Suspected robber boards vessel at Takoradi anchorage

29 April

One suspected robber boarded an anchored merchant vessel at 0500 hrs local time at the Takoradi anchorage. Crew raised the alarm, resulting in the perpetrator jumping overboard. There were no reports of stolen items.

Ghana: Update: Pirates release three South Korean fishermen

27 April

Three South Korean fishermen abducted by pirates on 26 March have been released. The whereabouts of the rest of the crew comprised of Ghanaians and Greeks remains unknown. It is unclear if a ransom was paid for the Koreans’ release. Ghana has faced a wave of maritime crime since January 2018. The South Korean fishermen had been abducted on 26 March, when Nigerian pirates boarded three different boats near Tema port, including a tanker and a fishing vessel.

PGI Analysis: Ghana has seen a significant uptick in reports of attacks in 2018, both near Takoradi port and further out at sea. Pirates in the region appear to have increased their area of operation in recent months to include waters off Benin, Togo and Ghana, as attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have been largely concentrated off Nigeria in recent years, raising concerns that the risk to vessels is increasing in the wider region.

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Albania: Tirana, Athens resume talks on maritime border

30 April

Greece and Albania’s foreign ministries have resumed talks to delineate the maritime border in the Ionian Sea. The talks come after Albania’s Constitutional Court nullified the 2009 agreement on the boundary in 2013. The ministries released a statement that the talks were held in a “constructive and cooperative climate”. The maritime boundary has long been a source of tensions between the two countries.

Algeria: At least 15 migrants die after boat sinks off Oran

29 April

At least 15 African migrants died after their boat capsized off the northwestern city of Oran, local media reported. Coast guards rescued 19 of 34 people on board. The migrants had departed from neighbouring Morocco and were trying to reach European shores. The incident comes days after the Algerian government said that the country was suffering from an influx of migrants due to the EU’s ongoing efforts to halt boat departures from Libya and Tunisia.

Argentina: Cargo ship collides with dock in Rosario

25 April

A cargo ship hit a dock on the Parana River in Rosario, leading to a slowdown of activity at terminal 6 at General San Martin port. The north dock of terminal 6 reportedly incurred serious damage and one operator working in the area suffered a minor injury. The ship had been preparing to load tens of thousands of tonnes of corn and soymeal.

Costa Rica: Coast guard seizes 809 kg of cocaine from fishing ship

24 April

Elements of Costa Rica’s National Coast Guard Service and the United States Coast Guard intercepted the fishing vessel Arcasli approximately 24 nm south of Punta Burica. Costa Rican Drug Control Police searched the vessel and discovered 809 kg of cocaine. Authorities arrested all four crew members on charges of drug trafficking.

Cote d’Ivoire: Authorities uncover customs fraud at Abidjan portt

29 April

The police arrested the head of the “Single Window” customs post at the Abidjan port, after local media uncovered a network fraudulently importing luxury cars. Importers of high-end vehicles via the Port Autonome d’Abidjan reportedly circumvented import tax and other customs duties. Reports did not specify how much revenue the government lost from the fraud. Incidents of corruption are regularly reported in Cote d’Ivoire’s customs authorities.

Indonesia: Cargo ship catches fire in Thousand Islands, no casualties

27 April

Cargo ship KM Kuala Mas caught fire near Nirwana Island in the Thousand islands. Reports state that all 18 crewmen survived after seven ships were deployed to put out the fire and rescue the crewmen. There has been no suggested reason in reports as to how the fire started. The Jakarta Search and Rescue Agency reported that it transported the crew to Tanjung Priok Port in North Jakarta after the incident.

Israel: Army drone strike hits Gaza port

27 April

An Israeli drone strike hit Gaza City’s port, damaging two boats but causing no casualties, Hamas officials said. The Israeli army said that it had struck six targets belonging to Hamas’s naval forces in response to “terror acts and attempts to infiltrate Israeli territory earlier in the day”. Gaza security forces prevented journalists from reaching the scene, Agence France Presse reported. The strikes came at the end of a day of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters along the border, where Israel said there were mass attempts to break into Israeli territory through the border fence.

Mauritius: Tropical storm Fakir to cause travel disruption, hazardous seas

24 April

Tropical Strom Fakir is set to hit Réunion and Mauritius, bringing winds up to 130 km/h and sea swells up to 3.5 metres. Heavy rainfall is also expected to bring flash flooding. Severe travel disruption to air and sea travel is expected. Réunion experiences annual cyclones between November and April.

Yemen: Saudis claim Houthi holding 19 tankers off Hodeidah

23 April

The Saudi government alleged that Houthi rebels had seized 19 oil tankers and were preventing them from entering Hodeidah port. The claims, which feature prominently in Saudi media, have not been verified independently or widely reported in other sources. The Saudi diplomat warned that Houthi rebels might destroy the tankers. Houthi forces have repeatedly targeted Saudi-led coalition vessels off Yemen in recent months.