Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime & Onshore Security Report

Yemen: Army seizes parts of Aden from AQAP 30 March

Yemeni armed forces backed by local fighters seized parts of the southern port city of Aden held by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) including the central prison, surrounding buildings and areas of Mansoura district, after three days of clashes. According to an official, a number of fighters were captured and many others were killed, although figures were not disclosed. The advance comes after the Saudi-led coalition and US forces stepped up campaigns against AQAP.

PVI Analysis: The successful seizure of parts of Aden from AQAP has heightened the risk of reprisal attacks by the group in city, who will seek to demonstrate their strength against Yemeni government-allied forces in the face of the renewed counteroffensive. Although armed forces’ operations have pushed militants out of strongholds in the city and disrupted the group’s networks, AQAP have maintained the capacity to mount retaliatory attacks. Typical attacks in the past have included suicide bombings against security personnel and government figures around the city.

Yemen: Air strikes against AQAP positions in Mukalla persist 30 March

Local media reported further air strikes against militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Mukalla, southern Yemen. The identity of the warplanes conducting the raids was unclear. There were reports of heavy anti-aircraft fire for several hours as strikes targeted multiple locations in the city, including several military bases held by AQAP. Over recent weeks, Saudi-led coalition forces have launched regular attacks on AQAP strongholds in southern Yemen.

PVI Analysis: The impact of the latest air strikes and counter insurgency operations on the ports of Mukalla and Aden, which both remain open, is unclear. Yemen’s port cities remain strategic targets as the Saudi-led coalition and US forces have increased air strikes in recent weeks across the country in a bid to reclaim key infrastructure from militant groups. The continued strikes underscore the fragile security environment facing shipping companies with operations in Yemen. Should port authorities change hands following the renewed counter insurgency campaign, this could result in operational challenges resulting from changes in authorisation requirements and inspection procedures.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Thieves board container ship at Jakarta Anchorage 3 April

Thieves boarded a container ship at Jakarta Anchorage but fled the vessel empty handed after crew mustered and raised the alarm. Although nothing was reported stolen, the incident was reported to the port police who boarded the vessel for investigation.

PVI Analysis: Although criminal activity at Jakarta Anchorage is rarely reported, the incident marks the second robbery at the anchorage in 2016. By contrast, only one robbery was reported in 2015.

Indonesia: Thieves rob bulk carrier at Samarinda Anchorage 31 March

Robbers stole ship’s stores from a bulk carrier at Samarinda Anchorage on the island of Borneo. Crew sounded the alarm upon hearing the thieves, prompting them to flee the vessel. The master stated he attempted to reach the coastguard but received no response.

PVI Analysis: Reports of petty theft at Samarinda Anchorage have been rare in recent years, as the last incident at the anchorage was reported in November 2014. Nevertheless, it is possible that similar incidents have remained unreported.

Malaysia: Gunmen kidnap four from ship off Sabah state 1 April

Local media reported that eight gunmen kidnapped four Malaysian nationals from a ship 17 nm off the east coast of Sabah state. The assailants opened fire and stole personal belongings before abducting their victims. Sabah security officials said it was unclear whether the abduction had occurred in Malaysian or international waters, and a Philippine army spokesman said it had yet to be confirmed whether the victims had been brought to the Philippines. Five other people on board the ship were reportedly released by the gunmen.

PVI Analysis: The abductors appeared to directly target Malaysian crewmembers, as the Indonesian and Myanmar nationals on board were released, possibly as the attackers perceived them as attracting a lower ransom. The perpetrators of the kidnapping remain unknown, although the abduction comes days after Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped 10 Indonesian sailors off the southern Philippines on 26 March, which could indicate the beginning of a resurgence of kidnapping in the region. The two incidents occurred within close proximity to one another in the waters between Malaysia and the Philippines, suggesting that Abu Sayyaf could also be responsible for the more recent abduction.

West Africa

Nigeria: Pirates attack tanker 41 nm off Bayelsa 1 April

Nine pirates armed with AK47 assault rifles in a black speedboat opened fire on a chemical tanker 41 nm southwest off Bayelsa. The pirates attempted to board the tanker with ladders, rope and grappling hooks, but then abandoned the attempt due to vessel hardening measures. During the attack, the master sent a distress message, raised the alarm, locked all doors and contacted the navy but received no response.

PVI Analysis: The assailants’ intentions remain unclear although it is possible the attack was a failed kidnap for ransom attempt. The number of kidnap for ransom attacks off the Nigerian coast have increased since January 2016. Fatalities are rare during such incidents as assailants attempt to preserve the lives of potential abductees in order to solicit large ransoms.

Nigeria: Pirates release kidnap victims 30 March

Pirates have released four kidnap victims, three Greek nationals and one Filipino, unharmed. The captives were kidnapped on 5 March from a Panama-flagged chemical tanker 29 nm southeast of Brass.

PVI Analysis: The incident marks the latest release of kidnapped crewmembers. A wave of offshore kidnappings on Nigeria’s coast in 2016 have seen the majority of victims released unharmed. It is unclear whether a ransom was paid to ensure their safe return.

Select Maritime News

Cambodia: Oil tanker crashes into jetty at Sihanoukville 29 March

An oil tanker belonging to the Kampuchea Tela company crashed into a 1200 m jetty at Sihaoukville around 1600 hrs local time. Several port workers were rescued from the sea after the accident, though one remains missing and is presumed dead. Authorities are investigating the cause of the accident and questioning the crew and port workers. The accident also caused an oil spill of unknown size.

China: Washington plans third patrol near disputed South China Sea islands 1 April

According to a report from Reuters, the US Navy plans to conduct the third in a series of so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ patrols near disputed islands in the South China Sea. The exact timing of the patrol has not been announced, but it will reportedly take place in early April. Reuters claimed the patrol would likely take place near Mischief Reef, the site of one of three airfields built by China on man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago. China has strongly objected to previous US patrols near the islands.

Germany: Product tanker explosion kills two at Duisberg port, one missing 31 March

A product tanker explosion killed two yard workers, with one worker still missing in Duisberg port. The tanker was in the shipyard for repairs when the blast occurred. The explosion threw heavy ship components up to half a kilometre away. Fire workers alleged the amount of flammable vapours in the tanker was not measured prior to the blast, leaving workers unaware of the hazard.

Greece: Authorities begin deportation of migrants to Turkey 4 April

Boats have begun deporting migrants from the Greek island of Lesbos to Turkey’s Dikili, as an EU plan to counter the mass migration into Europe takes effect. Hundreds have already been deported since the early hours of 4 April for either not registering for asylum or for having their asylum bids rejected by EU authorities. Some 750 more are expected to be deported before 6 April. A small protest against the EU deportation plan took place at the gate of Lesbos port, though there were no reports of violence. Activists expressed concern over the treatment of refugees in Turkey.

Greece: Migrant arrivals rise sharply ahead of EU-Turkey deal implementation 30 March

Migrant arrivals to Greece rose sharply ahead of the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal on 4 April, when EU countries will begin sending back migrants who have reached the EU through Turkey. Authorities recorded 766 new arrivals between 29-30 March, a marked increase after a drop in migrant arrivals the previous week. The rise in migrants took place despite gale force winds across the Aegean Sea which made conditions more dangerous than usual.

Greece: Syrian, Afghan migrant clashes injure seven at port of Piraeus 30 March

Clashes between Syrian and Afghan migrants injured seven people at the port of Piraeus, forcing riot police to intervene to end the violence. Approximately 6,000 refugees and migrants are currently living in temporary shelters in Piraeus.

Indonesia: Government announces plans to streamline port customs procedures 29 March

The chief economic minister announced new reforms to streamline port customs checks and harmonise procedures to facilitate Indonesian imports and exports. The measures will reduce the time it takes for imports to clear ports from 4.7 days to 3.7 days, according to the minister. The announcement comes amid new measures to attract foreign investment including tax incentives, simpler import rules and a revision of sectors that have restricted access to foreign investors.

Japan: Tokyo deploys 12 coast guard ships to patrol disputed islands 4 April

The Japanese Coast Guard has deployed 12 ships to exclusively patrol areas around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the sovereignty of which is disputed between Japan and China. The fleet will become fully operational in April as part of Japanese efforts to strengthen protection of the disputed waters from Chinese encroachment. Tensions over the islands have been high since 2012, when Japan bought them from a private owner. Chinese air force and naval intrusions have been frequent amid Beijing’s bid to assert sovereignty over the East and South China Seas.

Kenya: Revenue Authority discovers tax evasion racket in Mombasa port 31 March

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is investigating a tax evasion racket perpetrated by corrupt businessman, involving high-value motor vehicles declared as personal effects and household goods. KRA border control department has seized and detained three Range Rovers and one Mercedes Benz, with a total value of USD 280,000, and with an estimated tax value of USD 85,000. The vehicles were concealed in a cargo container earlier shipped from the UK and directed to Uganda. KRA is currently liaising with agencies including Interpol, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Regional Intelligence Liaisons Office (RILO) as part of an extensive investigative effort.

Libya: Petroleum Facilities Guard to reopen ports 31 March

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the Petroleum Facilities Guard plans to reopen the oil ports at Es Sider, Ras Lanuf and Zueitina. The militia group, which controls the three terminals, has closed each of the facilities for nearly a year and a half, severely affecting oil output. The group has now agreed to turn control of the facilities over to the new unity government. It was unclear when the facilities would reopen.

Libya: Two cargo ships explode at Misrata port 31 March

According to Sky News Arabia, two cargo ships laden with weapons exploded at Misrata port. Reports indicate that unidentified assailants detonated explosives near the vessels, causing them to explode. It is thought the weapons were bound for militants fighting the Tobruk-based government in Benghazi. The impact of the blasts on port operations remains unclear, although forces affiliated with the Tobruk-based government frequently attempt to limit shipments to militants in Benghazi, where they have been making significant gains in recent weeks.

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur condemns incursion by Chinese fishermen in South China Sea 31 March

Malaysia has summoned the Chinese ambassador to condemn more than 100 Chinese fishermen encroaching on Malaysian-claimed territorial waters in the South China Sea. The fishing boats were reportedly accompanied by an armed Chinese Coast Guard vessel. China has been asserting its claim to most of the South China Sea in recent years, though most naval clashes and border disruptions in the region have affected Vietnam and the Philippines. Chinese expansion of operations to Malaysian and Indonesian waters would introduce new challenged to the international effort, led by the US, to counter China’s activities.

Morocco: Automated container terminal planned for Tangier 31 March

APM Terminals, a unit of Denmark’s AP Moller-Maersk, has agreed to invest USD 858 mn in a new transhipment terminal in the Tanger-Med port complex, which will be Africa’s first automated terminal. The Tanger-Med port is Africa’s second busiest port after Port Said in Egypt and the new terminal is expected to increase its capacity by over 9 mn twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). The development is expected to improve the access to African markets for goods from the western Mediterranean.

Nigeria: Air force to patrol Akwa Ibom creeks to monitor pipeline vandals 4 April

Nigeria’s Air Force will begin surveillance of the Bakassi-Calabar water channel in Akwa Ibom, Niger Delta, to monitor pipeline vandals operating in the region. Oil thieves and armed groups have repeatedly caused pipeline leaks in the Niger Delta, which escalated in January and prompted authorities to impose an overnight curfew on the region’s waterways.

Nigeria: Niger Delta maritime workers threaten strike action over pirate attacks 31 March

Maritime workers in Delta state have threatened to take strike action to shut down local waterways over ongoing pirate attacks in the Niger Delta. The workers say the attacks have led to the loss of life and property in the waterways. A local leader blamed the attacks on poor policing and a weak security environment within the waterways.

North Korea: Pyongyang radio waves jam GPS signals on tens of planes, ships 1 April

North Korea has sent GPS-jamming radio waves from Haeju and Mount Kumgang, near its border with South Korea, affecting some 58 aircraft and 52 ships. There were no reported disruptions to the travels of the planes and ships, despite their GPS locators experiencing interference. Some 70 fishing boats suffered GPS malfunctions and turned back to South Korea. Seoul has condemned the action and called on Pyongyang to end its interferences, amid heightened tensions on the peninsula since January 2016.

Pakistan: Authorities arrest 59 Indian fishermen in Sir Creek 1 April

Pakistani authorities arrested 59 Indian fishermen and seized 10 boats in Sir Creek, a disputed area on the maritime border of Sindh and the Indian state of Gujarat. The arrest came after Pakistan released more than 170 Indian fishermen in March in a gesture of goodwill. India in return freed nine fishermen, who had been jailed for 17 months, on 17 March. India and Pakistan periodically arrest fishermen from each other’s countries for encroaching on territorial borders along a poorly defined and contested maritime boundary.

Philippines: Manila, Washington begin annual military exercises 4 April

Filipino and US troops began annual military exercises, expected to last for two weeks, during which both sides will test their command-and-control, communications, logistics and mobility procedures to address humanitarian and maritime security. A US military commander claimed that the exercises were partly aimed at avoiding a security crisis in the South China Sea. Over the past year, China has increased its land reclamation activities in the disputed South China Sea, where the Philippines claims some parts of the waters. A small contingent of Australian troops will join the exercises, while Vietnam and Japan have sent officers to observe.

Philippines: Government locates Abu Sayyaf hostages 30 March

The Philippine government announced it had located 10 kidnapped Indonesian nationals being held hostage by Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf. The victims were abducted near the Malaysian maritime border on 26 March. The government stated the victims were located within their jurisdiction but exact details were not disclosed. Abu Sayyaf are reportedly demanding a USD 1 mn ransom for their release.

Somalia: French navy seize weapons shipment in north Indian Ocean 29 March

French naval forces seized a ship bound for Somalia carrying hundreds of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank weapons in the northern Indian Ocean. The vessel is thought to have been destined for Yemen from Iran by way of Somalia, where Tehran has been accused of arming Shi’a Houthi militants conducting an ongoing insurgency. The shipment was seized on suspicion of violating the UN embargo against weapon exports to Somalia, which was implemented to prevent al-Shabaab militants from obtaining arms. The seized vessel was not registered to any country and French officials say 10 crewmembers were released after questioning.

Spain: Barcelona port to be accessible by train from 2018 1 April

Barcelona’s port will be accessible by train from the end of 2018 as a result of a USD 118 mn joint project funded by Port de Barcelona and the Spanish Ministry for Transport. The rail link forms part of Spain’s plans to improve its infrastructure in order to make its economy more competitive. The project will also relieve road congestion around the port. The new link comes ahead of plans to implement a Mediterranean corridor by building a direct rail link from Gibraltar to Central Europe.

Sri Lanka: Authorities seize 110 kg of heroin from Iranian vessel off southern coast 4 April

Authorities confiscated more than 110 kg of heroin worth USD 7.5 mn from an Iranian fishing trawler off Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Police said that 10 Iranians, two Pakistanis, one Indian and one Singaporean had been remanded to custody, adding that this had been a joint operation between Afghan and Pakistani drug dealers. Sri Lanka is a transit point for the smuggling of drugs to East and Southeast Asia. In 2013, Sri Lankan authorities confiscated 260 kg of heroin hidden in a shipping container that had come from Pakistan.

Thailand: Authorities seize 30 kg of heroin at Bangkok port 1 April

Police seized some 30 kg of heroin from a cargo ship anchored at the Port Authority of Thailand’s Klong Toey Port in Bangkok in the early hours of morning. Three Taiwanese suspects were also arrested. It remains unclear where the drugs originated from, though Thailand is known to be a major smuggling transit point for drugs produced in the Golden Triangle border area with Myanmar and Laos.

Vietnam: Coast guard seizes disguised Chinese oil vessel in Gulf of Tonkin 4 April

The coast guard seized a Chinese vessel allegedly intruding in Vietnamese waters near Bach Long Vi Island in the Gulf of Tonkin. The ship, which was disguised as a fishing vessel while carrying some 100,000 litres of diesel, was towed to Hai Phong port and its three Chinese crewmen are under arrest. The Chinese ship’s captain has claimed the fuel was to be sold to Chinese fishing boats operating in the area. Maritime tensions between Vietnam and China are high amid frequent intrusions and vessel disruptions in the disputed Paracel Islands area, with reports of armed Chinese fishermen harassing and attacking Vietnamese vessels. It is rare for Vietnam to seize a Chinese vessel.

Yemen: US navy seize suspected weapons shipment from Tehran to Sana’a 3 April

The US Navy reported it seized a weapons shipment in the Arabian Sea from Iran likely heading to Yemen. The shipment was intercepted on a small dhow, a type of ship commonly used in the Indian Ocean, on 28 March. The shipment included 500 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 21 machine guns. Houthi rebels, who are fighting against forces loyal to Yemen’s recognised government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, have denied receiving support from Iran.

Yemen: Port workers strike in Aden 30 March

Local media reported members of the Heavy Transport Association union in Aden began a mass strike in protest against the murder of a colleague. The workers demanded authorities identify the person responsible for the crime and said that they planned to strike for four hours each day until 3 April to protest against insecurity. The extent of disruption caused by the industrial action was not clear, but workers from all piers were reportedly due to participate.

Source: Protection Vessels International