Weekly Maritime Security Report

Gulf of Aden: Suspicious approach Bab el Mandeb

25 February

A MV was approached on 25 February at 13.41 hrs LT in position 12 13N 044 06E by 6 skiffs with approximately 5 persons on board  to within 0.5nm within the MSTC Bab el Mandeb. Ladders were sighted but no weapons. Whilst the vessel showed that guards were embarked it is unknown whether any warning shots were fired.


This is the third incident of suspicious approach reported in the last 5 days in this area, but there is no evidence they are connected.


Western Gulf of Aden: Suspicious approach

22 February

An underway MV reported a suspicious approach at 0748UTC in position 12:10N – 043:31.3E off Djibouti coast, western Gulf of Aden. Eleven skiffs with 4-5 persons on board approached the vessel, ladders were sighted. Warning shots were fired. Vessel was reported as safe as at 0840 UTC.


Although recorded incidents of piracy in the region have declined, a notable threat to commercial ships in Yemeni waters and the Gulf of Aden persists. The continuation of reported incidents still raises a heightened concern for shippers operating in the southern Red Sea, northern and central Somali waters and in the Socotra Gap as attacks and suspicious approaches have been recorded, particularly to vessels without on board security. It is also likely that some incidents are not reported through recognised channels.


Gulf of Aden: Suspicious approach

20 February

A merchant vessel has reported a suspicious approach at 1824 UTC on the 20th Feb, by 3 skiffs in position 1327N – 04942E (in vicinity of the IRTC, near pint B) to within a range of 1NM. Incident is now complete, and the vessel is safe. No further information is available.


This latest report is the second such suspicious approach reported within the IRTC in 2020, with the first occurring on the 11 Jan 20. This latest incident is 94nm East of another suspicious approach occurring within the Westbound transit corridor that recorded almost 12 months prior. Within 2019 there were four reported suspicious approaches within the Gulf of Aden and Bab el Mandeb. None of these incidents have been confirmed as MARSEC incidents.


Yemen: Drifting mines in coastal waters


Drifting mines have been reported in an area of Yemen and Saudi Red Sea coastal waters. There is no specific threat to vessels following recognised shipping routes. In response a NAVAREA IX Navigation Warning has been issued:

NAVAREA IX. 071/20.

Southern Red Sea and Farasan Bank.

Charts BA 157, 2964 AND 4071.

Mines reported adrift in area bounded by

  1. 16-45.60N 042-15.70E
  2. 15-41.50N 042-39.40E
  3. 15-54.00N 043-02.30E
  4. 16-58.70N 042-35.10E

Mariners are requested to Navigate with caution in the area.


Houthi rebel forces are known to use naval mines to target Saudi-allied vessels off the southern coast of Yemen; without commenting on the origin of the devices, MARAD reported that it is possible that the mines may have drifted north following a seasonal change of current flow. 

In a sign of the risk to neutral shipping, the Saudi coalition backing the government of Yemen reported last week that an Egyptian fishing boat sank in the Red Sea after hitting a naval mine. Six Egyptian fishermen were on the boat and three were rescued by coalition forces, according to spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki. The other three fishermen were reportedly killed by the explosion. 

“The . . . Houthi militia’s continuation of planting and deploying naval mines is a serious threat to maritime navigation and international trade in south of Red Sea and Bab el-Mandeb Strait,” said Col. al-Malki in a statement. “The coalition will carry on its efforts to neutralize maritime and naval mine threats.”


Indonesia: Pirate attack eastbound lane TSS Singapore Strait

07 February (late report)

While Malaysia-flagged tug boat towing barge, Sung Fatt 32, was en route from Port Klang, Malaysia to Kuching, East Malaysia, four small wooden boats approached the barge, which carried construction materials at 1200 LT in position 01:03.37N – 103:34.78E, approximately 3.4nm east of Karimum Besar Island, Indonesia (Eastbound lane TSS Singapore Strait). Eight perpetrators boarded the barge, stole about 20kg of steel construction material and escaped. The crew was not injured.


Following the incident, maritime security officials advised all commercial vessels in the area to observe security precautions and maintain increased situational awareness when transiting the Strait. The Singapore strait has a history of high levels of piracy and criminals typically board underway vessels. Robberies are periodically reported in the waters and assailants have been known to use force to extract their demands. In some cases, crew have been injured during robberies. Coordinated patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore along with increased security on vessels have, however, seen a downturn in piracy in recent years.

Benin: Piracy attack SW of Cotonou

20 February

Whilst on an eastern transit towards Lagos the tanker, Alpine Penelope was attacked and illegally boarded 76nm SW Cotonou 05°08’31”N – 002°06’14.4”E. The vessel was targeted approximately 140 km (76 mi) southwest of Cotonou. According to media reports, communication with the vessel was cut off after an alert was sent by the tanker. At least ten members of the crew were abducted. Further details regarding the incident have not been released as of Thursday.


The threat of piracy in Beninese waters is high. The country’s territorial waters see intermittent hijackings and robberies, and Lloyd’s of London continues to designate Benin as part of its High-Risk Area in the Gulf of Guinea. Benin’s proximity to Nigeria, where most groups of armed pirates originate, makes vessels sailing to the Port of Cotonou particularly susceptible to attacks. Beninese and Nigerian patrols in the Gulf of Guinea have had some success in bringing down the number of reported incidents, but the risk remains high.


Niger Delta: Pirate attack

16 February

Gunmen suspected to be pirates have attacked an oil barge along the waterways of Lutegbene, Ekeremor Local Government Area in Bayelsa State 20:20 LT Location: 04°49.166’N 005°31.100’E.

It is reported that they killed four soldiers escorting the barge and two civilians. Others in the vessel were said to have escaped with gunshot wounds by diving into the water and swimming to safety.

The incident reportedly unsettled the community as troops were said to have mobilised to the area, asking residents to produce the perpetrators.

Multiple sources, who confirmed the development, said angry soldiers had started burning some houses in the area due to residents’ inability to identify the suspects. (Not confirmed).

It is reported the soldiers were escorting the barge from Port Harcourt in Rivers State to Warri in Delta State when it came under attack. No further information is available at present.


The origins of piracy in the Niger Delta are closely linked to the historical conflict in the region, which has evolved and seen armed groups extend their activities to include various criminal enterprises. Criminal groups engaged in stealing oil directly from pipelines have also attacked vessels carrying oil products at sea and in the Niger Delta. This typically involves pirate gangs seizing a vessel, siphoning the oil to another ship and then releasing the ship before making off with the cargo. Pirate gangs operating out of Nigeria are typically heavily armed and respond violently when confronted.


Piracy gangs have increasingly shifted their focus from the theft of oil cargo to kidnapping crew for ransom since 2016. The fall in the price of oil and increasing surveillance by the Nigerian navy in the Niger Delta have made it more difficult for pirates to offload and sell oil cargo. The increase in kidnappings has meant pirates are willing to threaten vessels that may have foreign nationals on board.


Select Maritime News


Egypt: Authorities seize 3.9 tonnes of cannabis in Alexandria

18 February

Authorities seized 3.9 tonnes of cannabis in Alexandria. The narcotics were seized from a container that had come from an unnamed Arab country. The contraband was concealed in food cans. Drug seizures are common in Egypt but are rarely this large.


Italy: Authorities detain ship captain in Genoa on suspicion of arms trafficking

19 February

Authorities in northern Italy arrested the captain of a ship on suspicion of international arms trafficking. Authorities are investigating whether the Lebanese flagged ship transported weapons from Turkey to Libya. A crewmember reportedly tipped off police when the vessel docked in Genoa on 2 February. A French aircraft carrier had also been monitoring the vessel as it entered a port in Tripoli on 29 January, reportedly being escorted by a Turkish frigate. Weapon sales to Libya are currently under a UN embargo aimed at stopping a conflict between rival factions.


Japan: Third passenger on quarantined cruise ship dies from coronavirus

23 February

A cruise ship passenger who had been hospitalised after testing positive for the new coronavirus died, the third fatality from the Diamond Princess ship, the health ministry said. The latest fatality was an elderly Japanese man who was among the first group of people developing symptoms when Japanese health authorities ordered a 14-day quarantine of the ship on 5 February. The ministry also announced 57 more cases of infections from the ship, including 55 crew members still on board and two passengers who had infected roommates and are quarantined at a government facility. With the new cases, 691 people have been infected on the ship

Japan: Two passengers on quarantined cruise ship die from coronavirus

20 February

At least two of the passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died. Both individuals were elderly Japanese citizens with underlying illnesses and had been taken off the ship on February 11-12. At least 621 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among the approximately 3,700 passengers and crew on the cruise ship. The fatalities came as a second group of around 600 passengers were allowed to disembark after testing negative for coronavirus. Almost all passengers are expected to leave the ship by 21 February


Japan: Update: Passengers begin to disembark from quarantined cruise ship

19 February

Hundreds of passengers who tested negative for the new coronavirus have started to leave the Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Japan, after 14 days of quarantine. At least 542 passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess have been infected by the virus – the most coronavirus infections outside China. Several nations are evacuating their citizens from the ship as infections continue to rise. The US, Canada, Australia and the UK will place all those released from the ship in another 14 days quarantine when they return home. No one from the ship has so far died from the virus.


Libya: Boat carrying 91 migrants goes missing in Mediterranean

21 February

A small boat carrying 91 migrants has gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea, the UN migration agency reported. The boat reportedly departed from al-Qarbouli, 50 km east of Tripoli, on 8 February. An alarm was raised at 0330 hrs local time on 9 Feb in waters north of Libya, which authorities believe originated from the vessel. Italian, Libyan and Maltese authorities have not commented on information about their rescue efforts, according to the Associated Press. According to the International Organization for Migration, around 19,000 migrants have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean since 2014.


Iran: Coast guard detains foreign vessel in Gulf of Oman

22 February

The coast guard seized a foreign vessel accused of smuggling oil in the Gulf of Oman. The tanker was reportedly towed to Bandar-e-Jask Port and all 13 crew members were detained. The head of the Iranian coast guard did not provide details regarding the ownership of the vessel, its intended destination or the nationalities of the arrested crew members.


Morocco: Navy rescues 111 migrants in Mediterranean

18 February

The navy rescued 111 Spain-bound migrants in the Mediterranean in two separate operations on 15 and 16 February, state media reported. The migrants had run into difficulty in the Strait of Gibraltar when they were intercepted by the navy. Morocco is a major departure country for sub-Saharan migrants trying to reach Europe.


Panama: Police seize five tonnes of narcotics near Bocas del Toro

21 February

Authorities seized over five tonnes of narcotics off the coast of Panama near the province of Bocas del Toro. Police found the narcotics in a semi-subversive vessel and arrested four Colombian citizens. The ministry of public security did not specify the type of drugs seized but traffickers have previously been caught using similar vessels to transport cocaine into the US and Europe.


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