Weekly Maritime Security Report

Somalia: President Erdogan says Mogadishu invited Ankara to explore oil in its seas

20 January

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that Somalia invited Turkey to explore for oil in its seas after Ankara signed a maritime agreement with Libya in 2019. Erdogan said Turkey would take steps in line with the Somali invitation but did not elaborate further. Turkey has been a major source of aid to Somalia following a famine in 2011, but the statement comes two days after a suicide car bombing targeted Turkish contractors near Mogadishu.

Malaysia: Armed attackers kidnap 5 from fishing vessel off Sabah

16 January

An underway Malaysia-flagged fishing vessel was attacked by six armed persons wearing dark clothing and masks in a grey-coloured speed boat at 2000 hrs local time, around 4 nm northwest of Tambisan, Lahad Datu, Sabah. Malaysian Authorities managed to locate and intercepted the fishing vessel. Three crew were found safe on the vessel after initial reports stated eight had been kidnapped. The remaining five crew were reported kidnapped. The kidnappers are suspected to be militants belonging to the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group, which is known for banditry and piracy, including beheading some captives if no ransom is paid.

Analysis: Although infrequent, attacks by radical groups like Abu Sayyaf have catastrophic consequences. Seafarers in the region should exercise increased vigilance and follow HIGH risk protocols.


Taiwan: US warship sails through Taiwan Strait

16 January

A US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the island’s defence ministry said. The ship sailed in a northerly direction through the sensitive waterway and Taiwan’s armed forces monitored it throughout. The voyage comes less than a week after Taiwan held elections and risks raising tensions with China. Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in relations between the US and China, which also includes a trade dispute, US sanctions and the South China Sea, where the US also conducts freedom of navigation patrols.

Analysis: Expect increased tensions in the Straits of Taiwan.


Select Maritime News


Gulf Region:International maritime protection plans

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. CSG 72 and 75 are conducting handover of responsibilities with the flag-ship of CSG 72 (USS Abraham Lincoln) handing over to CSG 75 (USS Harry S Truman). 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…”


Motherships confirmed as piracy operational bases in Gulf of Guinea

The pirate-infested waters in the Gulf of Guinea are now the world’s most dangerous for international shipping, with at least nine vessels attacked and 89 crew hijacked for ransom so far in 2019. At least two piracy groups working in the Gulf of Guinea are responsible for the recent spate of attacks on tankers and kidnapping of crew. The pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Guinea are now the world’s most dangerous for international shipping, with at least nine vessels attacked and 89 crew hijacked for ransom in 2019. The pirates are operating from mothership vessels on the peripheries of the EEZ, using it as cover from Nigerian security forces. These vessels often disable their auto-identification systems to conceal them during attacks.


Belgium: Authorities seize 126 mn counterfeit cigarettes at Antwerp port

18 January

Customs officials announced the seizure of 126 mn counterfeit cigarettes at Antwerp port. They later arrested eight Turkish citizens in connection with the incident. Officials first identified a shipment on 9 January which contained 10 mn contraband cigarettes. Subsequent checks at the port and warehouses in Stabroek and Brecht revealed further cigarettes. The haul is the largest ever seizure of contraband cigarette in Belgium, according to a customs statement.


Columbia: Navy seize 1000kg of cocaine in Uraba

17 January

Navy forces seized 1,007 kg of cocaine from a cargo ship in the Gulf of Urabá. The contraband was discovered hidden in a container bound for Antwerp in Belgium. Large-scale seizures of contraband destined for Antwerp are common, with some 40 tonnes of cocaine seized from containers arriving at the port from Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia in 2019.


Brazil: Authorities seize 2 tonnes of cocaine at Santos port

16 January

Authorities seized two tonnes of cocaine in three separate incidents at Santos port on 16, 17 and 20 January. On 16 January, authorities found 1.3 tonnes of cocaine concealed among a cargo of soy beans bound for Antwerp port in Belgium. On 17 January, authorities recovered the drugs from a container of limes which was bound for Rotterdam port in the Netherlands. In the latest seizure on 20 January, authorities found the narcotics hidden among a cargo of refined sugar intended for Antwerp port in Belgium. Large-scale drug seizures are frequently reported as Santos port.


Brazil: Authorities seize 1 tonne of cocaine at Itajai port

16 January

Authorities seized one tonne of cocaine concealed among a cargo of cement inside two containers at Itajai port. Authorities found the narcotics during a routine cargo inspection. The narcotics were bound for Amsterdam port in the Netherlands.


Russia: Authorities seize Japanese fishing boat near disputed islands

16 January

Authorities seized a Japanese cod fishing boat and took it to a Russian-controlled island claimed by Japan. The boat which had six fishermen on board, was inspected by Russian border guards and was taken to a port at Kunashiri island, Russian media reported. Further details were not reported. Kunashiri island is one of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia.


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