Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Oman: Skiffs approach merchant vessel off Muscat

4 July

Two small white-hulled craft approached a merchant vessel at speed 88 nm east-northeast of Muscat at 1350 hrs local time. The craft had four persons on board each and came within 500 m of the vessel. Further details of the incident were not disclosed, although both the vessel and crew were reported as safe.

PGI Analysis: Reports of suspicious activity in the Gulf of Oman have increased since early 2017, some of which have been linked to smuggling in the region. Anonymous sources in the region have 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.

Yemen: Gunmen attack merchant vessel off Hanish Islands

4 July

Gunmen on board three white and blue hulled skiffs approached a merchant vessel at speed south of the Hanish Islands before opening fire on the vessel at 0802 hrs local time. The vessel’s armed security team returned fire and the crew and vessel were reported as safe.

PGI Analysis: The motive behind the attack remains unclear, although suspicious activity is regularly reported in the southern Red Sea. The waters around the Hanish islands are known to be used as a weapons and people smuggling route and have previously seen attacks by Somali-based pirates.


Select Maritime News

Australia: Union threatens disruption at Darwin Port

9 July

The Maritime Union of Australia has warned of potential disruption to the Port of Darwin, northern Australia, if the new private port operator Landbridge does not recognise claims made by its workforce. Workers are seeking a three percent rise in pay per year and for Landbridge to provide income protection to compensate for the perceived weakening of job security resulting from privatisation. Landbridge took out a 99-year lease at Darwin port in 2015 amid concerns that Australia was leasing out a piece of critical infrastructure with national strategic importance to the multinational company.

Congo, DRC: Update: At least 12 fishermen killed after military clashes on Lake Edward

9 July

At least 12 Congolese fishermen were killed during clashes between Congolese and Ugandan armed forces on Lake Edward on 5 July, local media sources reported. Fishermen said they could not retrieve the bodies, as the Ugandan military was opening fire on anyone approaching the area. The report indicates that at least 30 people have died or disappeared since the border clashes. There has been an increase in tensions between Kinshasa and Kampala over Lake Edward as Congolese forces tasked with preventing militia fighters crossing the lake occasionally enter Ugandan territory.

Dominica: Tropical storm Beryl to bring heavy rainfall, strong winds

8 July

Tropical storm Beryl is expected to make landfall late on 8 July, bringing heavy rainfall and winds up to 80 kmh. Authorities issued tropical storm warnings for Dominica and Guadeloupe, and tropical storm watch warnings for Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba and St. Eustatius.

Iran: Revolutionary Guards ready to block Strait of Hormuz

5 July

Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said his forces were ready to block the Strait of Hormuz. His comments follow similar warnings from Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who signalled Tehran could reduce cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog and disrupt regional crude exports amid tensions with Washington. President Donald Trump has called for countries to cease imports of Iranian oil from November after unilaterally withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal. The US military has said it would immediately counter any Iranian attempt to block the strait, a major chokepoint through which one-fifth of the world’s oil passes in tankers.

Iran : CMA CGM ends activities over threat of US sanctions

7 July

French shipping company CMA CGM said it would end operations in Iran over threats of non-compliance with US sanctions on Iran. CMA CGM follows market leader A.P. Moller-Maersk, which ended operations in May. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has called on European countries, which signed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, to provide more economic support to offset the US’ decision to unilaterally reject the deal and reissue sanctions.

Lebanon: Customs seize 1 mn amphetamine pills at Beirut port

4 July

Customs officers seized 1 mn Captagon amphetamine pills hidden in a shipment of wood chippers at Beirut port, local media reported. The drugs were to transit via Jordan before being shipped to Saudi Arabia. Police arrested a Syrian national on suspicion of involvement in the trafficking scheme. The breakdown of state institutions during Syria’s civil war has turned the country into a major producer of amphetamines, which are often shipped to the Gulf through Lebanon.

Mauritania : Nouakchott, Dakar sign fishing agreement

3 July

Nouakchott and Dakar signed a fishing agreement, two years after the expiry of a previous accord. The agreement grants Senegalese fishermen access to Mauritanian waters and allows them to fish 50,000 tonnes of small fish per year using a maximum of 400 boats. In exchange, Mauritania will receive USD 13 per tonne fished. The two countries agreed on a spot along the Mauritanian coast where Senegalese fishermen will offload and weigh their catch before selling it in other destinations. Competition over fishing resources has historically been a point of tension between Nouakchott and Dakar and sporadically led to clashes between police and fishermen.

Taiwan: US warships pass through Taiwan Strait amid tensions with Beijing

7 July

Two US warships passed through the Taiwan Strait on a voyage that will likely be viewed as a sign of support by US President Donald Trump, amid heightened tensions with China. The passage through the Taiwan Strait, the first one by a US Navy ship in about a year, follows a series of Chinese military drills around the island that have worsened tensions between Taipei and Beijing. The incident comes amid China’s air force staging military manoeuvres near the island in recent months, drawing criticism from Taipei.

Thailand: Ferry capsizes near Phuket, kills one Chinese tourist, 56 other people missing

5 July

A tourist boat carrying 105 passengers, of which 93 are Chinese tourists, capsized off the coast of Phuket island. Authorities told local media one Chinese tourist was confirmed dead while 56 others were still missing. Rescue services were able to save 48 people as operations continued to find the missing people.

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