Weekly Maritime Security Report

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Brazil: Sanctions strand Iranian vessels at Imbituba

19 July

Two Iranian bulk carriers, transporting urea, were stranded at Imbituba port after state oil firm Petrobras refused to provide them with fuel due to US sanctions, Reuters reported. The vessels were due to return to Iran with a shipment of corn. The development comes a day after reports that Petrobras refused to sell fuel to two other Iranian vessels in Brazil. The US has threatened to penalise any company breaking sanctions on Iran, re-introduced after the US withdrew from an international agreement with Tehran over its nuclear programme in 2018.


Iran: Authorities say seizure of UK ship reciprocal move

21 July

Iranian authorities said that the seizure of a British tanker, which Tehran had earlier said was prompted by a violation of maritime rules, was a response to the UK’s interception of an Iranian supertanker on 14 July. Iran has said that the length of the investigation into the tanker will depend on cooperation by the vessel’s crew. The UK said that the British tanker was seized by Iran while it was in Omani territorial waters, describing the seizure as illegal interference. British media reported that London was considering sanctions in response to the incident. Iranian naval forces seized the British-flagged, Swedish-owned Stena Impero as it transited the Strait of Hormuz on 19 July, saying the vessel had collided with a fishing boat.


Panama: Port of Balboa workers end strike

18 July

Striking workers at the Port of Balboa agreed to end industrial action after agreeing to negotiate a new deal with the Panama Ports Company (PPC), a PPC official said. A statement from the company noted that operations at the port had restarted. Around 400 workers went on strike on 17 July to demand increased salaries, affecting some loading at the port.


Saudi Arabia: Riyadh releases Iranian tanker

21 July

Saudi Arabia has released an Iranian tanker that had been compelled to seek repairs at Jeddah port in early May after suffering engine failure, Iranian authorities said. The vessel was released as a result of negotiations between the two countries. The docking of the tanker to Jeddah came amid mounting tensions between Iran and US allies, including Saudi Arabia, in the Persian Gulf.


United Kingdom: London warns UK vessels to avoid Strait of Hormuz after tanker seizure

20 July

The UK government said that it had advised UK shipping to avoid the Strait of Hormuz for an unspecified period a day after Iranian naval forces seized a UK-flagged vessel in the Strait. Iranian officials said that they seized the Swedish-owned Stena Impero for breaching maritime rules. The warning comes amid escalating tensions between the UK and Iran following the seizure of an Iranian tanker by UK forces off the coast of Gibraltar on 4 July.


Vietnam: Hanoi says Chinese oil vessels violated sovereignty

19 July

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said a Chinese oil survey vessel and its escorts have conducted activities in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. Vietnam has demanded that China’s ships leave Vietnamese waters. Chinese and Vietnamese ships have been engaged in a weeks-long standoff near an offshore oil block in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

South East Asia 

Indonesia: Robbers board tug boat in Singapore Strait

15 July

An unspecified number of robbers in sampans boarded an underway Malaysia-flagged tug boat and barge carrying scrap metal bound for Penang, Malaysia, near the Singapore Strait at 0430 hrs local time, approximately 0.6 nm west of North Nipa Beacon. The Master of the tug boat reported to the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) that his crew spotted some perpetrators boarding the barge. The perpetrators stole some scrap metal and escaped via the sampans. There was no confrontation between the perpetrators and the crew. Singapore Police Coast Guard and Republic of Singapore Navy were notified of the incident. All crew members were reported safe.


PVI Analysis: There has been an uptick in unauthorised boarding of ships in the western sector of the Singapore Strait in 2019. The reported incidents have targeted tug boats towing barges and dredgers. Some of the incidents have resulted in the loss of scrap metal and other items, however crew were not injured in any of the incidents.


Malaysia: Pirates attack ship in South China Sea, steal cash

22 July

Pirates attacked a South Korean-flagged cargo ship near the Singapore Strait in the South China Sea, stealing USD 13,000 in cash and valuables. Seven assailants boarded the CK Bluebell as it was en route from Singapore to South Korea. Two crew members sustained minor injuries in the attack.


PVI Analysis: Piracy has decreased in the South China Sea in recent years amid ramped up policing and security measures. However, robberies at sea continue to be intermittently reported. Robbers are frequently armed and sometimes use violence during robberies.

West Africa 

Nigeria: Pirates kidnap 10 Turkish sailors in Gulf of Guinea

16 July

Armed pirates kidnapped ten Turkish sailors in the Gulf of Guinea, the vessel’s owner said. The Turkish-flagged ship was sailing from Cameroon to Ivory Coast without freight when it came under attack by pirates on speedboats. The ship and remaining eight crew members were reported safe after the attack. The attack took place on 13 July but was not reported previously.


PVI Analysis: Despite a drop in the number of incidents over the past years due to an increase in Nigerian navy patrols, piracy remains common in the Gulf of Guinea. Robbers are frequently armed and use violence during robberies. Most piracy cases tend to occur during the night as robbers take advantage of low visibility and weaker security to attack.