Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report

Yemen: Five skiffs approach merchant vessel in Gulf of Aden 16 May

A merchant vessel reported that it was approached by five skiffs with three to five persons on board, which came within approximately 90 metres of the vessel. The approach prompted onboard armed security to fire warning shots as the vessel took evasive action. The master also contacted authorities and nearby Japanese warship dispatched a helicopter, causing the skiffs to move away from the vessel.

PVI Analysis: The presence of ladders sighted on board the skiffs, and the reluctance to move away from the merchant vessel indicates possible criminal intent. The incident comes amid ongoing reports of suspicious activity around the Horn of Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Aden, making it likely that opportunistic criminals continue to operate in the region.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: President announces release of sailors held in Philippines 11 May

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo announced four Indonesian sailors held hostage by the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines have been released. He said the release was made possible due to coordination between the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines. The sailors were abducted by Abu Sayyaf on 15 April between the Malaysian and Philippine waterways as their vessels travelled to Tarakan in North Kalimantan.

PVI Analysis: The sailors’ release comes after Jakarta successfully negotiated the release of 10 other Indonesian Seamen on 1 May, as the group come under pressure from military operations in the region, making it harder for them to hold hostages and evade armed forces. The group last attempted to kidnap crew near Pulau Serutu on 7 May, although the Indonesian Navy foiled the attempt amid increased patrols in the waters around Indonesia and the Philippines to tackle the spate of kidnappings.

Vietnam: Thieves rob container ship at Mui Vung Tau Anchorage 9 May

Thieves boarded a container ship and stole ship’s stores at 2050 hrs local time while the vessel was at anchor at Mui Vung Tau Anchorage. The vessel’s crew raised the alarm, prompting the robbers to flee with their stolen goods.

PVI Analysis: The incident marks the first reported robbery at Mui Vung Tau Anchorage in 2016 after a spate of petty thefts at the anchorage in recent years. The reasons behind the current uptick in thefts in southeast Asian anchorages remain unclear, although in previous years reduction in police presence around anchorages in Vietnam and Indonesia has led to an uptick in petty theft in previous years.

West Africa

Nigeria: Pirates attack tanker near Bonny River 13 May

Unknown gunmen attacked a Portuguese tanker at 1130 hrs local time, 26 nm south of Bonny River. The crew raised the alarm and transmitted a distress alert, resulting in the initiation of alert procedures. The pirates were unable to board the tanker, enabling the vessel to proceed southwest. The crew was unharmed.

PVI Analysis: The attempted attack is the latest report amid a series of hijackings and kidnappings in waters off the restive Niger Delta region. The fact the assailants were armed indicated it was likely the perpetrators intended to kidnap crewmembers, underscoring the need for continued diligence when transiting Nigerian waters.

Togo: Pirates attempt attack off Lome 9 May

A vessel anchored at Lome anchorage point was approached by an 8-metre wooden fishing skiff in an attempt to board the vessel. The vessel’s deck watch spotted the assailants on the small boat throwing a rope on the ship, and alerted the embarked Togolese Navy personnel. The skiff immediately aborted the attack and fled. All crew are safe.

PVI Analysis: The incident was likely a failed robbery attempt as the perpetrators appeared to be non-violent and opportunistic in their approach. Many thefts at West African anchorages go unreported, distorting maritime crime statistics in the region.

Select Maritime News

Argentina: Workers to strike at Rosario grains port 12 May

According to Reuters, workers at the major grains export hub at Rosario will begin an indefinite strike on 13 May. The action is driven by demands for higher salaries amid high levels of inflation in the country. Rosario handles about 80 percent of Argentina’s grains exports.

Australia: Terminal workers reject new enterprise agreement 10 May

Patrick Stevedores terminal workers rejected a pay agreement by an overwhelming majority, raising fears of further strikes at Patrick terminals across Australia. A union representative said the proposed pay rise of 9 percent was not enough, as they wanted job security amid the ongoing sale of Patrick, a subsidiary of Asciano. Patrick terminal workers have previously staged strikes in Brisbane and Sydney ports and threatened to strike at Melbourne over fears of job losses.

Australia: Shipping Australia criticises port rate rises 10 May

Shipping Australia, an organisation that represents ship owners, has spoken out against a series of tariff increases at Australian ports. It said the measures had caused widespread losses in the industry due to record low container, general and dry bulk shipping rates. The organisation has written to ports and pilot service providers pointing out that if Singapore can cut charges by 10 percent, then Australia should hold rates steady for the next 12 months at the minimum.

Bangladesh: Robbers attempt to board container ship anchored in Chittagong 14 May

Seven robbers attempted to board an anchored container ship at Chittagong Anchorage in Bangladesh. Crew noticed the attackers, raised the alarm, and sounded the ship’s whistle, causing the robbers to flee. Vessels sporadically report incidents of petty theft at Chittagong anchorage, although much maritime crime is thought to go unreported.

China: Beijing says US patrols justify construction of defence facilities in South China Sea 12 May

China has said that repeated patrols by the US navy close to islands it claims in the South China Sea justify its move to strengthen its defence capabilities in the disputed region. The defence ministry said that it deployed two navy fighter jets, one early warning aircraft and three ships to track and warn-off the destroyer USS William P. Lawrence as it passed by Fiery Cross Reef on 10 May. China has stepped-up its island-building and land-reclamation activities in the South China Sea and has added airstrips and other military infrastructure.

China: Beijing condemns US Pentagon report on military activities 15 May

Beijing expressed ‘strong dissatisfaction’ and ‘firm opposition’ to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military activities. According to the report, China is expected to add substantial military infrastructure, including communications and surveillance systems, to artificial islands in the South China Sea in 2016. A defence ministry spokesperson said that the report depicted China unfairly and deliberately distorted Chinese policies. The report comes amid growing tensions in the South China Sea, with the US accusing Beijing of militarising the disputes and Beijing condemning Washington’s freedom-of-navigation patrols close to contested islands.

China: Beijing protests US patrol near disputed South China Sea island 10 May

The sailing of guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence within 12 nm of the Fiery Cross Reef, an island administered by China but also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines, has prompted a diplomatic protest by Beijing. A foreign ministry spokesperson said that the US warship had ‘illegally entered waters near the relevant reefs of China’s Nansha islands.’ This is the third time in recent months that the US has conducted a ‘freedom of navigation’ operation in the disputed South China Sea amid aggressive island-building activities by China.

Colombia: Navy seizes 1.3 tonnes of cocaine 10 May

Colombia’s navy seized more than 1.3 tonnes of cocaine in two operations on the country’s coast. The first operation saw the interception of a small boat carrying four Colombian nationals near Malpelo Island with 1,180 kg of cocaine. In the second seizure, a coast guard ship stopped a boat near Cabo Manglares, NariAo province, which was carrying 300 kg of cocaine.

India: Border forces detain 18 Pakistani fishermen off Gujarat coast 11 May

The Border Security Force (BSF) detained 18 Pakistani fishermen and seized two boats 35 km off Koteshwar post in Gujarat at 1330 hrs local time after they encroached on Indian waters. The BSF also confiscated 350 kg of fish, four fishing nets, a mobile phone, an ice box, and 11 plastic jerry cans. India and Pakistan routinely arrest fishermen from the other country for violating the International Maritime Boundary Line due to contesting claims over territorial waters.

Iran: NITC tankers to resume oil shipments to Europe in June 12 May

The commercial director of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) announced its tankers will recommence oil shipments to Europe after a five-year suspension due to sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme. The NITC stated that its fleet of oil tankers, one of the largest in the world, had been maintained to high standards throughout the sanctions. The announcement comes after the international community lifted sanctions on Tehran on 16 January, allowing the recommencement of EU shipping trade.

Israel: Washington to protect gas fields off Israel 11 May

US Congressman Brian Higgins has introduced legislation for the US-Israel maritime security partnership act that aims to protect Israel’s coastline and natural gas fields from terrorist attacks. The act authorises further cooperation between the US and Israel to protect sites from threats, including the Tamar gas field and the larger Leviathan field. Under the new bill, threats against Israel’s shores will be protected by weapon systems designed to intercept missiles, as well as facilitating joint naval exercises and collaborative research and development of maritime threat detection capabilities.

Kenya: Report finds Kilindini Port key transit point for illicit wildlife trade 11 May

A report by NGO TRAFFIC and the Kenya Wildlife Service, funded by Washington, found that Mombasa’s Kilindini Port remained a key source and transit point for illegal wildlife contraband. Other countries using the port for the illegal trade included Tanzania, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia and South Sudan. The report also found that more ivory has been shipped through Mombasa than any other route out of Africa. The report comes amid a government crackdown on Kenya’s ivory trade.

Libya: UN removes government oil tanker from blacklist 13 May

The UN Security Council has voted to remove an Indian-flagged oil tanker from its international blacklist after the UN-backed Libyan unity government requested the de-listing so the tanker can be used to transport oil. The tanker Distya Ameya had been blacklisted in April after the rival eastern government’s oil company attempted to use the ship to transport 650,000 barrels of crude oil. The rival governments in Tripoli and the east currently have competing national oil companies seeking to participate in OPEC, though the unity government is attempting to assert its authority over both governments. The UN has banned the sale of Libyan oil by any company not aligned with the recognised government.

Libya: Security forces intercept vessel smuggling fuel 10 May

Maritime security forces interdicted a vessel in Libyan waters as it was attempting to smuggle 85,000 litres of diesel to Malta. The Maltese-registered tanker SAN GWANN was intercepted 7 km north of Abu Kammash district. The vessel and its three crew members were taken to Tripoli’s Abu Sitta naval base.

Malawi: Karonga police seize Tanzanian vessel on disputed Lake Nyasa 14 May

Malawian police in Karonga seized a 40 horsepower Tanzanian vessel which was illegally transporting goods from Malawi to Tanzania on the disputed Lake Nyasa. Some 16 crewmembers were arrested for smuggling 11 cows, alcohol, iron, mosquito nets and assorted medicines without an exporting licence. The arrests come after Malawi deployed three passenger-cargo ships onto the lake on 29 April to affirm its authority over the waters. Malawi lays claim to the whole lake, while Tanzania claims half. The dispute has long hindered productive relations between the neighbours.

Malaysia: Coast Guard says missing people found on Vietnamese boat 13 May

Malaysia’s Coast Guard said that the four people who went missing on 2 May were found on a trespassing Vietnamese trawler that was intercepted near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Coast Guard had launched search-and-rescue operations for the four people – two Spanish tourists, one Chinese national and one Malaysian – after their boat went missing near Kudat. It is not clear how they came to be on the Vietnamese trawler, although they were reported to be in good health. The Coast Guard intercepted the trawler for encroaching on Malaysian waters.

Nigeria: Reports say Abuja spends USD 370 mn to combat piracy 10 May

Nigeria’s maritime industry spent about USD 370 mn to combat privacy in 2015, according to a report by Ocean Beyond Piracy, an NGO. The sum includes the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety (NIMASA) costs, which amount to USD 218 mn. Another USD 136.8 mn was spent to hire several small fleets of escort vessels run by private companies, which have been used to bolster security offshore, especially around oil infrastructure.

North Korea: Pyongyang releases seized Russian yacht, citing mistake 15 May

North Korean authorities released a Russian yacht its Coast Guard seized about 130 km off its west coast in the Sea of Japan on 14 May. The yacht was on route from South Korea’s Busan to Russia’s Vladivostok, and was held by the Coast Guard at Kimchaek port. Pyongyang has said the seizure was a mistake.

Philippines: President-elect calls for friendly relations with China 15 May

Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte said that he wants friendly ties with China and that he was open to bilateral talks over competing territorial claims between both countries in the South China Sea. Relations between the Philippines and China have been tense over the past few years, with Beijing claiming nearly all of the South China Sea including waters approaching the coasts of the Philippines, and undertaking aggressive island-building activities. Manila has responded by strengthening military ties with the US and filing a legal challenge with a United Nations tribunal regarding the validity of Chinese claims.

South Korea: Seoul, Tokyo, Washington to hold drills against Pyongyang on 28 June 16 May

South Korea, Japan, and the US plan to hold their first joint anti-missile drills against North Korea on 28 June in the waters near Hawaii. A South Korean official said that the training will involve detecting and tracing an imaginary missile from North Korea, but will not include missile interception. According to the Yonhap news agency, the US will launch an airplane as a mock-up missile, which all three countries will monitor from ships equipped with an Aegis anti-missile system. North Korea recently claimed to have made notable developments in achieving its goal of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

Venezuela: Union official says delays to loading at crude terminal to cease by end of May 10 May

According to a union leader, delays since March in the loading of crude oil at the country’s principal port at Jose Antonio Anzoategui will ease at the end of May. The delays were caused by technical problems with loading machinery, but state oil company PDVSA is now installing three new loading arms at the terminal. Some 70 percent of the country’s crude exports are shipped from the terminal.

Venezuela: Robbers steal from tanker at Puerto Jose 12 May

Four robbers armed with steel pipes boarded a tanker anchored at Puerto Jose Anchorage, Barcelona, at 2150 hrs local time. Duty crew on routine rounds noticed the robbers and raised the alarm, causing the thieves to flee. A subsequent search carried out by the crew revealed the ship’s stores were stolen.

Vietnam: Border forces arrest thieves who robbed cargo ship at Vung Tau 13 May

Border guards in Vung Tau province have arrest seven suspects who allegedly robbed a Portuguese cargo ship at Mui Vung Tau Anchorage on 9 May. The robbers were arrested after stealing tens of paint cans from the ship’s stores when it was anchored some 20 nm offshore. Police have said the suspects were on their watch list for several months. The incident was the first robbery reported at the anchorage in 2016 after a spate of petty thefts in recent years.

Source: Protection Vessels International