Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Gabon: Tbilisi confirms 17 sailors missing after contact with tanker lost off Libreville

19 August

The Georgian government confirmed that an investigation is underway after 17 Georgian sailors went missing off the coast of Gabon since 14 August when all contact with their ship was lost as it was sailing off Libreville. The Panama-flagged chemical tanker MT Pantelena was around 18 nm off Libreville when all contact was lost although it is unclear what happened to the vessel and its crew.

PGI Analysis: Although piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is common, incidents off Libreville are rarely reported. Most attacks are concentrated 10-150 nm off the coast of Nigeria, although there is precedent for incidents further south off Sao Tome and Principe.

Nigeria: Armed robbers steal from vessel at Onne anchorage

21 August

Four armed robbers boarded a merchant vessel at Onne Port Anchorage at 0240 hrs local time and stole cans of oil before leaving. Crew were later reported as safe.

PGI Analysis: Crime is rarely reported at Onne port, although this is likely due to a lack of capacity to formally report crime through recognised channels. Onne port is located in the restive Niger Delta region where armed criminal gangs perpetrate a range of violent and opportunistic crimes, making it likely that the actual crime rate at the port is higher than reported. However, Nigerian authorities have lowered the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code level to a level 1 in April 2017, citing significant security improvements at Onne since 2016.


Select Maritime News

China: Authorities intercept oil-smuggling network, detain 38 in Jiangsu province

14 August

Customs authorities in east China’s Jiangsu province have intercepted a major network involved in smuggling more than 100,000 tonnes of fuel, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Nanjing customs reported that the smuggling network consisted of two groups that had been operating in areas such as Jiangsu, Fujian and Shanghai in 2017. Customs officers raided the groups on 6 July, detaining 38 suspects and confiscating more than 2,000 tonnes of smuggled fuel at the site. Initial investigations reportedly showed that the groups had smuggled more than 100,000 tonnes of refined oil valued at about USD 94 mn. Further investigations are ongoing.

Costa Rica: Police seize 133 kg of cocaine at Limon port

15 August

Drug enforcement agents seized 133 kg of cocaine hidden in a shipment of pineapples at the Port Terminal of Limón. The narcotics were on board a ship called Polar Chile and bound for Ireland. There were no immediate reports on whether authorities made arrests in connection with the seizure. Latin American drug gangs often hide narcotics in food shipments to Europe.

Mauritania: Collision between vessel, fishing boats kills nine fishermen

15 August

A night-time collision between a large transport vessel and two small fishing boats killed nine fishermen at an undisclosed location off the coast of Mauritania. Six other fishermen were rescued with various degree injuries. It is unclear who operated the large vessel. Industrial fishing vessels and other large carriers are regularly criticised for their lack of caution when navigating, especially at night.

Oman: Explosion on tanker injures three off coast near Muscat

14 August

An explosion occurred on a Fujairah-bound Shipping Corporation of India tanker off the coast near Muscat, injuring three people. The cause of the explosion was not immediately confirmed. The Omani navy and other vessels responded and extinguished the fire. Omani officials said that the vessel was seaworthy and continued operations two hours after the explosion.

Philippines: Coast guard seizes smuggled sugar in Tawi-Tawi

18 August

The coast guard turned over to customs an estimated USD 187,000 worth of smuggled sugar seized from a cargo vessel rescued off Mapun Island in the seas of Tawi-Tawi. Local media reported that the coast guard initially rescued the boat and then discovered it was carrying about 5,000 bags of smuggled sugar. Initial investigations showed that the imported sugar came from Labuan in Sabah, Malaysia.

Somalia: Police detain Mogadishu port officials for questioning

18 August

According to local media, police detained several officials at Mogadishu port for questioning in connection with corruption allegations. Those arrested included the manager of the seaport customs office. Local media did not confirm details of the allegations.

Sudan: Boat accident kills 22 students on Nile

15 August

At least 22 students drowned when their boat sank while crossing the Nile in Kneissa region, northern Sudan. A total of 40 children where on the boat on their way to school, VOA Afrique reported. The accident was reportedly caused by the engine stopping in the middle of the crossing in high current. Boat accidents are intermittently reported on the Nile where the current can pose a serious threat.

Tunisia: Shipping line workers postpone strike to 2-4 September

18 August

Unionised employees from shipping line firm Compagnie Tunisienne de Navigation postponed their strike planned for 19-21 August to 2-4 September, local media reported. The decision came after an initial round of negotiations with the company’s management. The industrial action, which was prompted by demands for better wage benefits and the payment of a holiday bonus, is expected to disrupt ferry routes from Tunisia to France and Italy as well as freight transport to Spain and Italy.

Tunisia : Naval forces recover 14 migrants after intercepting vessel off the coast of Sfax

17 August

The coast guard recovered 14 migrants after intercepting a vessel off the coast of Sfax. Officials said that the human smugglers accidentally set fire to their vessel after attempting to use petrol bombs to ward off the coast guard vessel. Tunisia is a common transit point for human traffickers attempting to reach Italy.

Tunisia: Coast guard rescues eight would-be migrants of El Huwariyah

14 August

A coast guard patrol rescued eight would-be migrants who had become stranded at sea off el-Huwariyah after their engine failed. Attempts to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe are common in Tunisia, which suffers from high unemployment.

United States: Police arrest 22, seize USD 450 mn worth of counterfeit goods in New York

16 August

The police arrested 22 people as part of a large-scale operation targeting counterfeit goods merchants in New York City. Authorities seized fake designer wares valued at USD 450 mn. The suspects reportedly smuggled the China-produced wares through ports on the US West and East coasts. The gang reportedly falsified import documents and used addresses and other identifying information of legitimate companies as part of their smuggling activities.

Yemen: Security forces seize antiquities in Aden

15 August

Authorities seized 12 antiquities on a vessel due to depart for Djibouti from Aden’s Mualla port, according to security forces. Officials said that a merchant in Sana’a was responsible for the trafficking attempt. The incident comes after a warning by UNESCO over the threat of antiquities trafficking in Yemen amid a three-year conflict between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed forces in southern Yemen.