Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Malaysia: Armed assailants board oil rig in Johor

26 September

Two assailants armed with swords boarded an oil rig at 0230 hrs local time around 1.5 nm southeast of Tanjung Bulat, Johor. The robbers tied up the rig’s security guards and stole personal belongings from the crew and some of the rig’s communication equipment. The security guards were released by on-shore staff who arrived after radio communications ceased. No serious injuries were reported during the incident.


PGI AnalysisArmed robberies are periodically reported off Johor and assailants often use force to extract their demands. In some cases crew have been injured during robberies. Reports of robbers targeting oil rigs in the region are rare however and criminals typically board anchored vessels.



Congo: Two armed robbers board anchored merchant vessel in Pointe-Noire

25 September

Two robbers armed with knives boarded an anchored merchant vessel at around 0000 hrs local time in Pointe-Noire anchorage. The alarmed was raised but the robbers managed to steal ship property before escaping.


PGI Analysis: Non-violent robberies are sporadically reported at Pointe-Noire anchorage although assailants are usually easily deterred by basic security procedures such as raising the alarm. Robbers are occasionally armed although are rarely willing to confront crew and will often flee once the alarm has been raised.


Ghana: Assailants board merchant vessel at Takoradi Anchorage

30 September

Two assailants boarded a merchant vessel via the anchor chain at Takoradi Anchorage at 0402 hrs local time. Crew raised the alarm, prompting the intruders to abandon the attempted boarding.


PGI Analysis: Crime has decreased since the introduction of improved security measures in 2013, although attempted thefts continue to be reported at Takoradi Anchorage. Robbers are opportunistic, typically easily deterred and non-violent.


Nigeria: Pirates open fire on underway tanker off the coast of Bonny Island

25 September

Six armed pirates on a speedboat opened fire on an underway tanker at 1151 hrs local time around 100 nm off the coast of Bonny Island. The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker reportedly raised the alarm, increased speed and took evasive manoeuvres. A nearby security vessel arrived at the scene and fired warning shots, leading to the pirates abandoning the attack. No damage to the tanker was reported.


PGI Analysis: Pirate attacks off Nigeria are common and typically occur between 20 and 150 nm off the coast, demonstrating pirates’ extensive geographical range of operation. Pirates are often armed and violent and there is precedent for attackers to persist when under attack from armed security teams until they have been injured or killed.


Select Maritime News

Barbados: Storm Kirk brings heavy rainfall, wind gusts

28 September

Tropical storm Kirk brought heavy rainfall of up to 13 cm and wind gusts of around 80 km/h. Authorities issued warnings of severe floods in low-lying areas across the lesser Antilles islands. Flights from Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados were reportedly cancelled due to the storm. Initial reports did not specify damages or casualties caused by the storm. The tropical storm is expected to continue moving westward on 28 September, significantly losing strength.


China: US warship sails near disputed South China Sea islands

30 September

A US navy destroyer sailed near the Spratly Islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, a US official told Reuters. The operation was reportedly the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the disputed waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate. Washington has criticised China’s construction of islands and military facilities in the area and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement. The Spratly Islands are also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.


Mexico: Hurricane Rosa strengthens to category 4, expected to hit Baja California

28 September

Hurricane Rosa in the Pacific Ocean strengthened to a category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of over 230 km/h. The storm is expected to turn north-northeast on 28 September and could hit Baja California from 1 October. Authorities warned of strong winds and heavy rainfall in Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Colima and Jalisco. Landslides and flooding are common during hurricane rains in Mexico and often cause casualties.


Morocco: Navy opens fire on migrant boat, killing one

25 September

Moroccan naval forces opened fire on a speedboat carrying 25 migrants, killing one civilian and seriously wounding three others. All of those on board were Moroccan nationals, other than the captain who was a Spanish national and is reportedly part of a human trafficking network. The patrol boat opened fire on the vessel after it refused to follow orders to cut its engines. The boat complied after being fired upon, with the captain of the boat subsequently arrested. Rabat has confirmed the incident, stating that it was necessary to prevent the vessel from reaching Spanish waters. Some 54,000 migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean from Morocco since the beginning of 2018.


Morocco: Police arrest two human traffickers, including Spaniard, in Tangier

26 September

Moroccan police arrested two suspected human traffickers in the coastal city of Tangier. One of the suspects is a Spanish national while the other is Moroccan. The two are suspected of belonging to a human trafficking network that arranged maritime journeys on inflatable boats for would-be migrants. The arrests come one day after the navy opened fire on a migrant vessel, killing a Moroccan national.


Saudi Arabia: Navy destroys explosive boats near Jazan

29 September

Saudi naval forces intercepted and destroyed two remote-controlled vessels rigged with explosives travelling towards the port of Jazan in southern Saudi Arabia. The navy said the incident caused “minor damage” but did not provide further details. Yemen-based Houthi rebels were blamed for the attack, which follows similar drone boat attacks targeting Saudi-led coalition warships and maritime infrastructure since 2017.


United States: Hackers target San Diego port with ransomware

27 September

Hackers attacked San Diego port’s IT systems using ransomware. The attack affected park permits, public records requests and business service systems but did not interfere with sea port operations. The attackers requested an undisclosed quantity of bitcoin to restore the port’s IT systems. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating the origin of the attack.


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