Weekly Maritime Security Report

Mauritius: Authorities arrest 3 British nationals for drug smuggling

27 November

Authorities arrested three British nationals at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam airport for allegedly smuggling more than 3.3 kg of heroin. The heroin was reportedly hidden in their stomachs, and the three suspects were taken to a hospital where the drugs were flushed out. No further details were immediately available.


Analysis: Whilst this incident shows no increase in the risk to shipping in the area, it suggests that vigilance on the part of law enforcement authorities which is a positive indicator.


Yemen: Authorities repel Houthi attack in Hodeidah

29 November

Authorities repelled an armed attack from Houthi rebels in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Xinhua reported citing an anonymous military official. The official said that the attackers targeted pro-government military locations with heavy shelling and attempted to seize the area, but authorities were able to repel the attackers. At least 10 soldiers were wounded in the attack though it is unclear if there were any casualties among the rebels.


Analysis: Houthi rebels continue to mount attacks in their efforts to seize (maritime) transport and logistics hubs with violence naturally spilling into the littoral area; increasing tensions and frequency of incidents in the narrow passage of the Straits of Mandab.


Somalia: Washington claims responsibility for air strike in Jilib

02 December

The US claimed responsibility for an air strike on al-Shabaab militants in Jilib, Lower Jubba Town on 30 November. The number of casualties from the strike was not immediately clear but AFRICOM confirmed no civilian casualties have been reported. The US military conducts frequent air strikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia.


Analysis: US assistance to Somali efforts to degrade al Shabaab and other armed insurgent groups in Somalia be a double-edged weapon: whilst countering the threat directly it can provoke reprisal incidents which spill into the maritime environment. Somali-based piracy remains a threat despite the vast improvement in the security situation. In April 2017, Indian and Chinese forces rescued a a bulk carrier that had been seized by Somali-based pirate. The previous month, Somali-based pirates seized a product tanker but later released it. Further hijackings of smaller cargo and fishing vessels as well as attacks of commercial vessels, mostly in the Gulf of Aden, have also been reported.



Indonesia: Pirates steal equipment from tugboat near Pulau Nongsa

26 November

Two unidentified perpetrators boarded a Malaysia-flagged tugboat which was towing a barge 2 nm northwest of Pulau Nongsa, near Batam Island. The robbers managed to steal some twist locks and ropes but fled when the crew raised the alarm. No crew were injured and the vessel continued its voyage.


Analysis: Indonesian and Malaysian waters off the eastern coast of the island of Borneo, which comprises of Malaysia’s Sabah and Indonesia’s Kalimantan, had seen cases of hijackings and abductions-for-ransom since March 2016, reportedly carried out by the Philippine Islamist group Abu Sayyaf (ASG). However, such incidents have declined. Transit routes near major ports, such as Jakarta Bay and Makassar Strait have seen a particularly high number of incidents and minor robberies.


South Korea: Military fires warning shots towards North Korean merchant vessel

27 November

South Korea’s military fired warning shots toward a North Korean merchant boat with engine trouble that violated their sea border, South Korean officials said. The vessel was detected crossing the inter-Korean maritime frontier at around 0640 hrs local time near a South Korean border island off the west coast. The South Korean military issued a warning and fired shots into the water near the ship to drive it away. The incident was reportedly the second time South Korea fired warning shots toward a North Korean vessel since President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017.


Analysis: Tensions continue in the waters around the Korean peninsula with shipping frequently being fired upon when encroaching or entering territorial waters and missile testing over international seas.


Select Maritime News


Gulf Region:International maritime protection plans

29 November

US Naval deployments include the Carrier Strike Group 72 in (USS Abraham Lincoln) with the US 5th Fleet in The Gulf in support of the US-led International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC – Op SENTINEL) to protect shipping in the region. There is a similar European initiative planned for early 2020 which will coordinate with IMSC: mounted out of France’s naval base in Abu Dhabi the mission is planned to involve approximately 10 nations including the UK (who are involved in the IMSC now). Believing there is a heightened risk of security incidents in the Straits of Hormuz, the UK Dept for Transport said the aim of the missions is to ensure “UK-flagged ships will soon be able to transit the Strait of Hormuz without close Royal Naval accompaniment…”


China: Authorities seize 540 tonnes of smuggled meat in Hong Kong

29 November

Authorities seized 540 tonnes of illegally imported frozen meat with an estimated market value of about USD 50 mn in Hong Kong. Authorities seized the meat from a suspicious fishing vessel which was bound for mainland China. Six individuals were arrested at the scene.


Columbia: Authorities seize 2.5 tonnes of cocaine from boat off San Andreas

28 November

Authorities seized about 2.5 tonnes of cocaine from a boat some 280 nm off the coast of San Andres, a Colombian island in the Caribbean Sea. Authorities found the narcotics after receiving information regarding a suspicious fishing boat navigating in the region. The boat originated in Venezuela and was bound for Honduras, according to local media reports. Several individuals aboard the vessel were arrested at the scene.


Libya: Government signs maritime deal with Ankara

28 November

Turkey and Libya’s internationally recognized government signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea as well as a deal on expanded security and military cooperation, the Turkish government said. There were no immediate details on the maritime accord.


Brazil: Fire breaks out at Santos port terminal

27 November

A fire broke out at the Cutrale terminal located in Guaruja on the left bank of Santos port. Port authorities said the fire was caused by a short circuit of a conveyer belt electric motor. Authorities evacuated the terminal and moved a vessel that had recently docked on a mooring adjacent to the conveyer belt. Firefighters were deployed to the scene and extinguished the fire in less than one hour. No one was reported injured and no further disruption at other terminals was noted.


Morocco: 4 migrants die in Mediterranean crossing attempt

27 November

Four migrants have died and up to 16 others are missing after attempting to cross from Morocco to Spain in a small vessel, Spain’s coastguard said. Rescuers operating from the Spanish enclave of Melilla discovered the vessel 37 nm off the coast of Morocco, before bringing the 58 survivors to Melilla. Sea-borne migration has fallen since a peak in 2015, but the International Office for Migration has recorded 1,136 migrant deaths during attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2019. Morocco is common transit point for migrants from Africa to Europe.


Brazil: Authorities seize 545kg of cocaine at Paranagua port

26 November

Authorities seized 545 kg of cocaine hidden among a cargo of wood at Paranagua port, Parana state. Authorities found the narcotics during a routine cargo scanning operation. The narcotics were bound for Antwerp port in Belgium. Large-scale narcotics seizures are intermittently reported at Paranagua port.


Brazil: Authorities seize 1.3 tonnes of cocaine at Santos port

26 November

Authorities seized 1.3 tonnes of cocaine concealed among a cargo of sugar at an undisclosed terminal of Santos port. Authorities aided by sniffer dogs, found the narcotics during a routine cargo inspection. The narcotics were bound for Tanger-Med port in Morocco, though authorities suspect the narcotics would later be shipped to Europe.


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