Weekly Maritime Security Report

Southern Red Sea: Assailants fire at survey vessel in Bab el Mandeb

19 November

According to initial reports, unidentified assailants fired on a survey vessel from the shore at 1845 hrs local time during an operation off Mayyun Island in the Bab al Mandeb Strait. There was no confirmation of who was responsible for the attack, or whether the vessel suffered any damage as a result of the gunfire.


Analysis: Houthi rebels and other armed groups pose a risk to vessels near the coast of Yemen. On 17 November, two Houthi skiffs seized three vessels, including a Saudi-flagged tug and a drilling rig, after they entered Yemeni waters.


Yemen: Update: Houthis release three vessels and crew

19 November

Houthi rebels released two South Korean vessels, one Saudi-flagged vessel and 16 crew members, the South Korean foreign ministry confirmed. Houthi forces detained the vessels, including a drilling rig and a Saudi tugboat in the southern Red Sea after they entered Yemeni waters amid severe weather conditions on 17 November, Houthi sources said.


Analysis: Houthi rebels have occasionally targeted vessels in the key waterway. In 2018, Houthis attacked two tankers and one bulk carrier near the Bab al-Mandeb.


Indonesia: Robbery on tugboat

24 November

A Malaysia-flagged tugboat towing barge loaded with containers was boarded by two perpetrators at 0330 LT in position 01:14.25N – 104:4.01E, approximately 2.2nm NW of Pulau Nongsa, Indonesia. Robbers escaped after the crew onboard the barge raised the alarm and chased them away. Some twist locks and ropes were stolen. The Master reported the incident to Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS). Vessel and crew are reported to be safe.


Analysis: Most cases of piracy in Indonesia are opportunistic robberies and thefts by armed attackers and are likely to be exacerbated by continuing poverty across many coastal towns and fishing villages. Most of these attacks target bulk carriers and oil and chemical tankers while at anchorage.


Malaysia: Attempted robbery on bulk carrier

22 November

An underway Marshall Island-flagged bulk carrier was boarded by five perpetrators armed with two long knives. They were were sighted in the engine room at 0522 LT in position 01:16.3N – 104:14.08E, approximately 4,4nm SSE of Tanjung Bulat, Malaysia. The crew immediately raised the alarm and the perpetrators escaped. The crew followed up with search for any missing items and perpetrators on board. Master confirmed no perpetrators on board and nothing stolen. The incident was reported to Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS). The ship resumed her voyage.


Analysis: Piracy poses a significant threat in Malaysian waters off both the eastern and western coast of peninsular Malaysia. The number of pirate attacks in the Malacca and Singapore Straits has fallen substantially since 2016 due to improved coordination and increased patrols, but the waters remain high risk.



Equatorial Guinea: Pirates reportedly kidnap seven crew members in Gulf of Guinea

20 November

Authorities reported that pirates abducted seven people of various nationalities off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, near the Zafiro oil field in the Gulf of Guinea. The country’s information office said the pirates targeted a supply vessel for Exxon Mobil as it was heading to Luba from the oil field. The navy reportedly boarded the vessel later to find its remaining eight crew members in hiding. No details regarding the kidnappers or their motives were immediately available.


Analysis: The Gulf of Guinea is one of the world’s hotspots for maritime piracy and sees frequent crew kidnappings. 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 light levels.


Select Maritime News


Brazil: Authorities seize one tonne of cocaine at Santos Port

22 November

Authorities seized one tonne of cocaine concealed among a cargo of scrap metal at an undisclosed terminal of Santos port. Authorities, aided by sniffer dogs, found the narcotics during a routine cargo inspection. The cargo was bound for Rotterdam port in the Netherlands, with a stopover at Antwerp port in Belgium.


Brazil: Authorities seize 158 kg of cocaine at Santos port

19 November

Authorities seized 158 kg of cocaine hidden in a hollow part of a backhoe loader at an unknown terminal of Santos port. It is unclear how authorities obtained information regarding the narcotics. The drugs were going to be boarded on a vessel bound for Valencia port in Spain with a stopover at Antwerp port in Belgium.


China: Beijing warns Washington after US navy ships sail in South China Sea

22 November

Beijing urged the US to stop provocative acts after two US navy ships sailed near islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea. China claims almost all of the waters of the South China Sea, where it has established military outposts on artificial islands. The US has accused Beijing of militarising the South China Sea and intimidating Asian neighbours who might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.


Iraq: Update: Operations resume at Khor al-Zubair port

20 November

Operations resumed at the Khor al-Zubair port near Basra a day after anti-government protesters blocked the entrance of the facility, officials said. The protesters left following talks with port officials. The port of Umm Qasr remains closed by hundreds of protesters despite attempts to negotiate with demonstrators. There have been daily anti-government protests against corruption and poor state services since October.


Libya: Coast guard intercepts 430 migrants

23 November

The coast guard intercepted over 430 migrants headed to Europe off Zawiya, Garabulli, Abu Kemmash, Khoms and Tripoli. The migrants were transferred to a detention centre. The EU has partnered with the Libyan coast guard to stop migrant departures, prompting criticism by rights groups over the abuses faced by the migrants in detention centres in the country.


Libya: Charity ship rescues 73 migrants from dinghy near Zawiya

22 November

An Open Arms vessel rescued 73 migrants from a rubber dinghy near Zawiya that had been drifting off the Libyan coast for nearly 24 hours. The migrants were reported to have suffered from hypothermia and ice burns. It is the latest rescue by the Open Arms NGO vessel in the Mediterranean where more than 1,000 migrants on their way from north Africa to Europe are believed to have drowned or gone missing in 2019.


Netherlands: Authorities find 25 illegal migrants on ferry bound for the UK

19 November

Dutch authorities found 25 migrants stowed away in a ferry bound for Felixtowe port, southern England, shortly after it departed from Vlaardingen port. The discovery of the migrants forced the vessel to return to its point of departure. Authorities said the migrants were hiding in a refrigerated container, though they released no further information regarding the incident. The origin of the migrants is unknown. The incident comes about a month after 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in a refrigerated truck near London.


Romania: Ship transporting livestock sinks near Midia Port

24 November

A ship transporting about 15,000 sheep and 21 crew capsized and sank shortly after departing from Midia Port toward Saudi Arabia. Authorities were deployed to the scene to attempt to rescue the ship and its cargo. All crew members were reported safe after the incident. It is unclear what caused the ship to sink.


Spain: Police seize 2 tonnes of cocaine from submarine in Galicia

24 November

Police seized over 2 tonnes of cocaine from a submarine off Aldan town in north-western Galicia region, anonymous sources told local media. The volume of the haul has not been officially confirmed. Two people were detained in connection with the seizure, while a third managed to escape. The three are reported to be Ecuadorian nationals. It was not immediately clear where the submarine had departed from. The use of submarines for drug trafficking is thought to be rare in Europe.


Tunisia: Coast guards intercept 40 migrants off Sfax

20 November

Coast guards intercepted 40 Europe-bound migrants off Sfax. The intercepted migrants include four Tunisians and 36 nationals of unspecified sub-Saharan countries. Tunisia is a key departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe.


United Kingdom: Authorities seize 100kg of cocaine at Newhaven Port

24 November

Authorities seized about 100 kg of cocaine concealed among a cargo of frozen fish in the refrigerated container of a truck at Newhaven port, East Sussex county. Authorities found the narcotics after inspecting the cargo of a truck which arrived at the port from an unknown country on a ferry. The truck driver was arrested at the scene.


Uruguay: Authorities seize 3 tonnes of cocaine at Montevideo port

20 November

Authorities seized 3 tonnes of cocaine concealed among a cargo of rice in a container at Montevideo port. Authorities found the narcotics during a routine cargo inspection. Police said the container carrying the narcotics originated in Paraguay and was bound for Benin.


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