Weekly Maritime Security Report

Malaysia: Authorities arrest three suspected pirates off Tanjung Piai

03 August

Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) agents arrested three suspected pirates off Tanjung Piai, Johor, at 0830 hrs local time. MMEA arrested the suspects after identifying a suspicious small wooden boat without registration. Upon inspecting the boat, authorities found more than two tonnes of scrap metal believed to have been stolen from a barge towed by a tug boat.

 

Malaysia: Robbers board barge off Tanjung Piai

12 August

An unspecified number of robbers boarded an underway Malaysia-flagged barge, towed by a tug boat from a small boat, at 2051 hrs local time, approximately 4.3 nm south of Tanjung Piai, Johor, while the vessel was en route to Port Klang from Sarawak. The robbers stole some scrap metal and ropes from the barge before escaping. The master raised the alarm and reported the incident to the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System via VHF. Crew were reported safe.

 

Vietnam: Armed robbers board vessel at Phuoc Long port

12 August

Two robbers armed with knives boarded a container ship berthed at Phuoc Long Mooring Buoy No. 03 at about 0030 hrs local time. Crew on duty spotted the robbers attempting to break into the steering gear room and notified the duty officer, who sounded the alarm. The robbers fled the vessel upon hearing the alarm. Nothing was reported stolen.

 

PGI Analysis: Robbers often target vessels at anchorages and in nearby waters across Southeast Asia, particularly overnight and in the early hours of the morning to take advantage of low visibility. There is the potential for incidents to turn violent as robbers are often armed, although they typically only use force when confronted by crew.

 

West Africa

Cameroon: Suspected pirates attack merchant vessel at Douala Port

15 August

A merchant vessel was attacked by an unknown number of pirates near Douala port. The attack was the second to occur in the area on the same day. The status of the crew and vessel were not clear.

 

Cameroon: Assailants abduct Asian, European crew from vessel off Douala

15 August

Suspected pirates abducted an unconfirmed number of Asian and European nationals from a merchant vessel off the coast of Cameroon near Douala, a senior navy source told Agence France Presse. Further details were not immediately available.

 

Nigeria: Suspected pirates attack merchant vessel near Calabar

14 August

Suspected pirates attacked a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Guinea, near Calabar. Further information regarding the attack was not immediately available. The vessel and crew were reported safe.

 

Nigeria: Suspected pirates attack merchant vessel in Gulf of Guinea

17 August

Suspected pirates attacked a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Guinea near Bonny. The crew and vessel were reported safe. The Gulf of Guinea has seen an uptick in piracy incidents in recent years.

 

Togo: Pirates hijack vessel near Lome

15 August

Pirates reportedly hijacked a vessel near Lome close to the border with Ghana. The exact location of the incident was not provided. The status of the crew and vessel was not clear.

 

PGI Analysis: Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea are frequently reported, particularly due to the presence of Nigerian robbers in the region. Robberies typically occur between 10 and 150 nm off the coast, demonstrating pirates’ extensive geographical range of operation. Robbers 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

 

Brazil: Authorities seize 220 kg of cocaine at Paranagua port

17 August

Authorities seized 220 kg of cocaine hidden among a cargo of wood at Paranagua port. Authorities found the narcotics after receiving an anonymous tip-off regarding the location of the drugs. The narcotics were bound for Antwerp port in Belgium.

 

Bulgaria: Authorities seize 76 kg of cocaine at Burgas port

17 August

Authorities seized 76 kg of cocaine worth USD 3 mn at Burgas port. The contraband was concealed in a shipment of bananas originating from Ecuador. Bulgaria is one of the main transit routes for cocaine from South American countries destined for eastern Europe.

 

China: Beijing denies Hong Kong port visit for US Navy ships

13 August

China denied a request for two US Navy ships to visit Hong Kong in the coming weeks, US officials said. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the transport dock ship Green Bay had requested to visit later in August, while the guided-missile cruiser Lake Erie had requested to visit in September. One of the officials said a specific reason was not given, but such a move is not unprecedented. The move comes as Hong Kong has seen weeks of protests over China’s control of the territory.

 

Costa Rica: Authorities seize 504 kg of cocaine at Moin port

13 August

Customs authorities seized 504 kg of cocaine concealed in a shipment of plastic boxes at Moin port. The narcotics, originating from Colombia, were discovered during a routine search operation. The contraband was due to be shipped to Antwerp, officials said. The port of Antwerp is one of the largest cocaine trafficking entry points into Europe.

 

Gibraltar: Washington warns ports against helping released Iranian tanker

20 August

The US has warned Greece and all Mediterranean ports against aiding an Iranian tanker that was released by Gibraltar authorities on 18 August. The US conveyed its “strong position” to Athens after ship tracking data showed the tanker was headed to the Greek port of Kalamata. The US State Department said any efforts to aid the tanker could be considered as supporting a US-designated foreign terrorist organisation. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the US that any attempts to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences”. The tanker’s detention in Gibraltar on 4 July had heightened tensions between the US and Iran.

 

Indonesia: Ferry fire leaves seven dead off Sulawesi island

17 August

Seven people died and four others remain missing after a ferry carrying tens of passengers caught fire off Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. The ferry, heading from Southeast Sulawesi to an island in Central Sulawesi, caught fire in the early morning hours of 17 August. Police suspect the fire was triggered when the diesel tank exploded. It was unclear how many people were aboard the vessel at the time. Marine accidents are common in Indonesia, where many use ferries and other boats to travel despite poor safety standards.

 

Malaysia: Police detain nine Filipinos in Sabah

18 August

Marine police acted on a tip-off and detained nine people from Sintangkai, Philippines, for attempting to enter the country illegally via the waters of Sabah’s Pulau Sisipan. The tip-off indicated that a boat operated by a man from Palau was bringing in six men and two women from the Philippines. Authorities also seized the boat, an engine pump and the passengers’ belongings. Those found guilty of smuggling migrants could face a jail term of up to 15 years, a fine, or both under Malaysian law.

 

Philippines: Authorities arrest four Vietnamese poachers in Tawi-Tawi

16 August

Authorities said they had arrested four Vietnamese poachers in the waters off Taganak Island in Tawi-Tawi. A maritime patrol was being conducted in the waters when they found an unregistered vessel manned by Vietnamese fishermen at around 1500 hrs local time. The vessel and its crewmembers were escorted to Great Bakungan Island off Taganak for investigation and a drum, which contained sea cucumbers, was found in the boat.

 

Philippines: Manila warns of “unfriendly” greeting for uninvited foreign ships

20 August

President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of “unfriendly” treatment for foreign ships travelling in the country’s territorial waters without permission. This comes after Manila issued several diplomatic protests in recent weeks over the activities of the Chinese coastguard, navy and paramilitary fishing vessels in Philippine-controlled areas of the South China Sea and its territorial waters. Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said all foreign vessels passing the Philippines’ territorial waters must get clearance from authorities in advance. Panelo did not refer to China by name and did not elaborate on what the enforcement by authorities might entail.

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