Weekly Maritime Security Report

Benin: Pirates kidnap nine crew members near Cotonou

02 November

Pirates kidnapped nine crew members from a Norwegian-flagged cargo ship around 14 km off Cotonou. The assailants boarded the vessel while it was at anchorage. The vessel managed to notify the authorities and has reached the port of Cotonou.


Togo: Pirates kidnap four crew members off Lome

04 November

Unidentified gunmen attacked a Greek-owned oil tanker 18 km off the port of Lome at 0300 hrs local time and kidnapped four crew members. The assailants shot and wounded one security guard on board the vessel. Two of the abducted crew members are Filipinos, one is Greek, and one is Georgian.


PGI Analysis: Beninese and Togolese waters are vulnerable to pirate attacks due to their proximity to Nigeria, where most pirates in the Gulf of Guinea are based. The Gulf of Guinea is the world’s most dangerous piracy hotspot, according to the International Maritime Bureau. More than 60 seafarers have been captured off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon this year.


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Azerbaijan: Explosion on exploration vessel kills one in Caspian Sea

29 October

Explosives on a vessel owned by Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR inadvertently detonated, killing one employee and injuring three others, off Gurgan in the Caspian Sea. The explosives were on board for use in marine seismic surveys. According to local sources, the vessel was searching for new oil wells in the area. An investigation into the explosion is underway.


Brazil: Authorities seize 333 kg of cocaine at Paranagua port

30 October

Authorities seized 333 kg of cocaine concealed among a cargo of iron at Paranagua port. Authorities found the narcotics after identifying several suspicious packages among the iron cargo during a scanning procedure. The narcotics were bound for Le Havre port in France.


Brazil: Investigators claim Greek-flagged vessel spilled oil off coast

01 November

Investigators said that Greek-flagged tanker Bouboulina, carrying crude from Venezuela’s Jose terminal, spilled oil around 700 km off the coast of Brazil in July. The tanker’s owner, Delta Tankers, said that there had been no incidents on the trip and that the vessel had offloaded the fuel in Malaysia with no change in cargo volumes. The spill in July covered beaches across 2,500 km of Brazil’s northeastern coastline, affecting fishing and tourism. Brazilian authorities have sought help from international agencies to investigate the case.


Greece: Authorities rescue 116 migrants near Alexandroupoli, Farmakonisi islands

29 October

The Greek coast guard said it rescued 116 migrants in three separate incidents near Alexandroupoli and Farmakonisi islands in the Aegean Sea. The migrants are reportedly being transported to safety. The Greek migrant route into Europe was largely sealed when the EU reached a deal with Turkey in 2016 to curb migration.


Iraq: Protests halt operations at Basra port

30 October

Ongoing anti-government protests have halted operations at Umm Qasr port near Basra, reported al-Jazeera. The port is operating at 20 percent of capacity, stated a port official. Umm Qasr is a key import point for grains and sugar, and disruption is likely to have an impact on limited food supplies in the south.


Iraq: Protesters block roads around Umm Qasr port

02 November

Protesters blocked main roads around the city of Umm Qasr south of Basra with burning tyres and concrete roadblocks, local media reported. Security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse protesters, though there was no confirmation that the roads were cleared. Port services have been suspended since 30 October due to unrest. The roadblocks come amid anti-government protests in Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, during which security forces have killed more than 200 people.


Puerto Rico: US officials seize 1,900 kg of cocaine off south coast

31 October

US officials interdicted a boat and seized more than 1,900 kg of cocaine off Puerto Rico’s south coast, according to US Customs and Border Protection. It was the largest such seizure in the region this year. The agency said two men from the Dominican Republic were detained. Authorities said the boat was first identified on 30 October but that officials tracked it until it entered US waters.


Russia: Tanker explosion kills three in Nakhodka

01 November

An explosion in the bunker of Zaliv Amerika tanker at Nakhodka port killed three people. Fuel gas in the empty bunker reportedly exploded, though there was no confirmation of what triggered the blast. Local authorities towed the vessel to a nearby berth following the explosion.


Saudi Arabia: Riyadh releases 19 Iranian fishermen

31 October

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported that Saudi Arabia released 19 fishermen who were detained 10 months ago, following negotiations between the two states. A local media source claimed the fishermen were transported to Rostani port in Tangestan, Bushehr province. Saudi officials did not immediately comment on the report. The two boats strayed into Saudi waters during poor weather. Saudi coastguard vessels often detain Iranian fishermen, who are typically released within several months.


Tunisia: Authorities seize firearms, detain French national in Bizerte

29 October

Customs authorities detained a French national after uncovering four firearms during a routine search of his yacht in waters off Bizerte, north-eastern Tunisia. The yacht was searched while attempting to enter Bizerte marina. Authorities are likely to charge the man with weapons smuggling after he failed to declare the presence of weapons on board. Tunisian customs agents regularly seize firearms being smuggled into Tunisian ports.


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