Weekly Maritime Security Report

Benin: Pirates kidnap six crew from vessel off Cotonou

2 January

Pirates boarded an underway Panama-flagged container ship at 0101 hrs local time 55 nm south of Cotonou before kidnapping six crew members and fleeing the scene. The vessel, its cargo and remaining crew were reported safe.

PGI Analysis: The news of the kidnappings comes after initial reports that the vessel came under attack in the area, and it remains unclear if ransom has been demanded. Russian media has said two Georgians, four Ukrainians and 20 Russians were on board at the time of the attack and all six abductees were Russian nationals. The ship is now in Nigerian waters. Beninese waters are vulnerable to pirate attacks due to their proximity to Nigeria, where most pirates in the region are based, although most attacks occur off Nigeria’s eastern Niger Delta region.

Select Maritime News

Brazil: Authorities seize 760 kg of cocaine at Paranagua port

5 January

Customs officials seized 760 kg of cocaine hidden in a frozen poultry container at Paranagua port. Authorities found the narcotics during a routine operation at the port. The narcotics were bound for Belgium, according to local authorities.

China: Oil tanker fire kills one off Hong Kong

8 January

An oil tanker caught fire in waters south of Hong Kong’s outlying Lamma Island, killing at least one person and sending a large cloud of dark smoke billowing into the air. Twenty-one people were rescued after those on the vessel either fell or jumped into the sea, but it remains unclear if more people are still missing. An unspecified number of the victims had suffered burns, Channel News Asia reported. Authorities have dispatched marine police vessels, fireboats and a helicopter in an ongoing rescue operation, according to the South China Morning Post.

Egypt: Authorities close major ports over storm

6 January

Authorities closed the ports of Alexandria, Dekheila, Ain Sokhna and Suez due to inclement weather conditions, Reuters quoted a port authority spokesman as saying. Three smaller, unnamed ports along the Gulf of Suez were also closed because of the storm. Port authorities said that the loading and unloading of ships was proceeding normally in Alexandria and Dekheila as of 7 January, but that vessels were not permitted to leave or come into the ports. There were no reports about the other ports reopening, suggesting they remain closed. The storm is expected to continue across the country over the coming days.

Greece: Authorities report large drug seizure in Piraeus port

6 January

Authorities reported that Turkish and Greek anti-narcotics forces seized large quantities of opiates in Piraeus port. The exact amount of drugs seized was not immediately disclosed. State-run Turkish media Anadolu said the drugs originated from Syria. Drug seizures originating from the Middle East are common in Greece.

Greece: Coast guard, Frontex rescue 69 asylum seekers in Aegean sea

3 January

The Greek coast guard and Frontex agents rescued 69 asylum seekers in two separate operations in the eastern Aegean Sea, local media sources reported. The operations reportedly occurred on 30 December, but were only reported on 3 January. The nationality of the asylum seekers was not disclosed.

Kuwait: Authorities suspend port activity due to weather

3 January

Kuwait’s port authority halted shipping at Shuwaikh, Doha and Shuaiba ports because of poor weather. Strong winds, high waves and poor visibility were expected to persist for several hours at least. It was not clear when port operations would resume.

Lebanon: General strike disrupts public, private sector

4 January

The General Confederation of Lebanese Workers umbrella union embarked on a strike in the private and public sector to protest against poor economic conditions. The strike disrupted activities at Beirut’s port, as well as at the National Social Security Fund and the state electricity company. The strike also disrupted flight activity at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport for one hour. The unions had called for a general strike to protest the poor economic situation of the country and delays in the formation of a new government.

Libya: Customs seize weapons from Turkey in Misrata

7 January

Customs officials at Misrata port seized a container with some 20,000 pistols from a ship that had arrived from Turkey, local media quoted an anonymous source as saying. The arms were reportedly hidden behind boxes containing household items and toys. The incident comes after two shipments of Turkish arms were seized in Khoms in late December, despite a UN arms embargo being in place on the country.

Libya: Customs seize over 8 tonnes of cannabis in Misrata

5 January

Customs authorities seized a total of 8,156 k of cannabis from two containers shipped from Malta. Libya is a trafficking hub for narcotics and seizures are common.

Malta: Valletta allows rescue ships to access national waters

3 January

The Maltese government allowed German rescue NGO ships Sea Watch and Sea Eye to access its territorial waters to shield it from storms on the Mediterranean. The ships have been at sea since 22 December, when they rescued 32 migrants from capsized boats. Italian and Maltese authorities have since refused to allow the ships to dock at their ports. The Maltese announcement came after the Netherlands announced it was prepared to take in some of the migrants, three of which are children. According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 1,300 migrants died attempting to cross from North Africa to Europe in 2018.

Morocco: Authorities seize 13.75 tonnes of cannabis at Tangiers port

5 January

The police seized a truck carrying 13.75 tonnes of cannabis at Tanger Med port. Drug-sniffing dogs reportedly discovered the shipment during a routine check at the container terminal. Authorities arrested the driver of the truck and opened an investigation. Authorities in Morocco regularly seize large shipments of cannabis, which is mostly intended for the European market.

Morocco: Police dismantle human trafficking network in Tangier

3 January

Police dismantled a human trafficking network in the northern city of Tangier. Four suspected human traffickers were arrested in connection with the case. Authorities raided a property belonging to one of the suspects as part of the investigations and seized Algerian passports, life jackets, cash, and mobile phones. Police found 17 would-be migrants, mostly Algerian nationals, in the house. Migrant departures from Morocco towards Spain have increased in 2018 as other transit countries have stepped up anti-human trafficking measures.

Netherlands: Container search underway after shipping accident

4 January

The coast guard launched an operation to collect 270 containers, including some with toxic chemicals, that fell off a container ship on 3 January. The containers fell off the ship near the German island Borkum, but the tide has carried them towards islands in the northern Netherlands. One of the containers is carrying peroxide powder, 25 kg of which have been found on the island Schiermonnikoog. The containers fell off the ship amid storm Zeetje, which also led to flooding in northern Germany.

Panama: Authorities seize 1.3 tonnes of narcotics off the Pacific coast

3 January

Authorities seized about 1.3 tonnes of unspecified narcotics from a speedboat in the Pacific coast southwest of Montuosa island. Authorities seized the narcotics during a routine operation in nearby waters, according to local authorities. Three foreign nationals were arrested at the scene, though their countries of citizenship were not disclosed.

Turkey: Four Ukrainians die after ship sinks in Black Sea

7 January

Four Ukrainian citizens died after a Panama-flagged cargo ship sank in the Black Sea off Samsun province. The crew of the Volgo Balt 214 vessel included 11 Ukrainians and two Azerbaijanis, Samsun Governor Osman Kaymak said. Six crew members reportedly died in the accident while seven others were rescued. It was not immediately clear what caused the accident.

United Kingdom: Oil leaks from refinery into waterway in Wales

4 January

An oil leak at the Valero refinery in Wales led to a spillage into the Milford Haven waterway, local media sources reported. Authorities have since said they contained the leak. Oil collection efforts were underway at the time of writing. The spill led to a temporary suspension of shipping along the waterway.

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