Weekly Maritime Security Report 07 Feb 2017
East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Yemen: US Navy warns of mines in Houthi areas
A Pentagon spokesman told reporters that there was evidence Houthi forces had placed mines outside at least one of the ports under their control. The defence department did not provide specifics, but a maritime advisory service said that mines had been planted in Yemeni territorial waters in the Red Sea near the mouth of Mokha harbour. Vessels were advised to increase vigilance, travel as far from the Yemeni coast as possible, and to transit the Bab el-Mandeb Strait during daylight.
PGI Analysis: The Yemeni conflict has significantly increased the risk to all types of vessels transiting the Red Sea and Bab el Mandeb, as much of the fighting has centred on Yemen's west coast where Houthi militants have controlled a number of strategic port towns. The conflict has led to the proliferation of criminal and militant armed groups across Yemen, which has seen a rise in suspicious and aggressive activity towards vessels in the area. The reports come after a Houthi-claimed attack on a Saudi warship killed at least two soldiers on 30 January, the latest in a series of attacks against both military and commercial vessels in the Bab el Mandeb and southern Red Sea since July 2016.
Nigeria: Pirates fire on vessels off Yenagoa coast
Eight gunmen on board a skiff opened fire on a merchant vessel and escort vessel at 1015 hrs local time, 107 nm off Yenagoa, Bayelsa state. The escort vessel returned fire with a number of warning shots, prompting the pirates to retreat. The attack came a day before pirates successfully abducted crew members from a merchant vessel 34 nm off Yenagoa on 6 February.
Nigeria: Pirates abduct eight from merchant vessel off Bayelsa
Pirates successfully kidnapped eight crew members on board a merchant vessel 34 nm off the Yenagoa coast, Bayelsa state, at 1125 hrs local time, although they did not leave the vessel until 1400 hrs local time. The kidnapping took place when three speedboats and one tug with 10 gunmen armed with automatic weapons approached and boarded the merchant vessel.
PGI Analysis: Abductions at sea off the Niger Delta are common, as the area continues to harbour numerous criminal rings despite a series of renewed military operations against armed groups in the region since May 2016. It is likely the attack on 4 February was a failed abduction, as kidnappings at sea off Nigeria peaked in January 2016 and continued throughout the year. Many kidnappings are likely to have gone unreported however, as maritime statistics for Nigeria are often unreliable.
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Angola: Government to build USD 1.1 bn deep sea port in Cabinda
The chairman of the board of directors of Angola's sovereign wealth fund, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, announced plans to invest USD 180 mn to build a USD 1.1 bn deep sea port in the Cabinda province exclave. The project will comprise a free trade zone, ship repair facilities, storage and unloading and will be 14 m deep. Dos Santos said the project is part of Angola's strategy to diversify the economy away from reliance on oil revenue.
Bangladesh: Locals say Naypyidaw border guard killed fisherman near Cox's Bazar
Myanmar's border guards shot and killed a Bangladeshi fisherman near the border region of Cox's Bazar's Teknaf upazila at 0630 hrs local time, local residents told the Daily Star newspaper. The locals alleged that they were fishing at the Moulvipara point of the Naf river when members of Myanmar's Border Guard Police (BGP) approached them on a speedboat and opened fire. Bangladeshi authorities are yet to comment on the incident. In December 2016, Myanmar's navy opened fire on six Bangladeshi fishermen and wounded them, prompting Dhaka to summon Myanmar's envoy and register a formal protest.
Bangladesh: Fog disrupts ferry services
Ferry services on the Chandpur-Shariatpur route were disrupted due to poor visibility amid heavy fog. The Shimulia-Kathalbari and Paturia-Daulatdia routes in the Padma River were suspended for more than five hours starting at 0400 hrs local time, local media reported. Travel was disrupted after more than 300 vehicles on both sides of the river were left to queue as services were suspended. Normal operations had resumed by 0900 hrs.
Colombia: Sumitomo Mitsui withdraws financing from Odebrecht's river project
The Colombian government reported that Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui pulled USD 250 mn in financing from the Magdalena River navigability project, as majority stakeholder Odebrecht faces serious corruption charges. Odebrecht is seeking to give up its 87 percent stake in the Navelena consortium, tasked with the USD 851 mn effort to dredge the river to increase its cargo capacity, after allegations by US prosecutors that it paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in 12 countries. The consortium has until 22 February to find alternative financing, and if that does not happen, the contract will be nullified.
Greece: Farmers' protests cause cargo build-up at Thessaloniki Port
Farmers blockading the border crossing at Evzones led to a build-up of tens of thousands of tonnes of cargo, due to travel to Macedonia, at Thessaloniki port. Some freight trucks attempted to use alternate routes. There was no indication of an immediate impact on port operations. The farmers began the protest on 2 February over tax increases and social security contributions.
Greece: Authorities set March deadline for Thessaloniki port bids
Investors have been given a 24 March deadline to submit bids for a majority stake in Thessaloniki port, according to Reuters. The sale of the 67 percent stake in the port is part of Greece's bailout agreement with international creditors, which was launched in 2014. The initial deadline for bids was the end of September 2016, but the date was postponed numerous times due to disagreements on the amount of mandatory investment. The buyer of the majority stake is reportedly expected to invest up to USD 194 mn in port development by 2021.
Kenya: Update: ICJ to rule in maritime boundary dispute
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected Nairobi's objection to the court ruling on the Somali-Kenyan maritime boundary dispute. The Kenyan government previously said the ICJ did not have the authority to rule on the disputed boundary and that it should be resolved out of court. The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2009 that the maritime boundary should run east along the line of latitude, and added that further negotiations would be held on the boundary through the UN. The dispute has complicated the exploration of oil and gas deposits in the area.
Libya: Coastguard says 1,131 migrants intercepted off Sabratha
Libya's coastguard announced that 1,131 migrants were intercepted off the shores of the Western city of Sabratha in late January and early February. Most of the migrants were reportedly from sub-Saharan countries, but also included people from Tunisia, Syria, and Libya. The Libyan maritime migrant route has regained importance since the EU-Turkey deal sealed the Aegean route in 2016.
Libya: Traffickers fire on coast guard vessel off Sabratha
A naval spokesman said that a Libyan coast guard vessel was fired on by human traffickers off Sabratha in western Yemen. The incident occurred as the coast guard vessel attempt to intercept two wooden vessels carrying around 700 migrants. There were no reports of casualties and it was not clear if the gunmen were detained. Vessels operating in Libyan waters face a number of security risks.
For more on the threat to vessels off Libya see PGI's Insight
Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur re-opens island dispute with Singapore
Malaysia has re-opened its dispute with Singapore over the Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh island, which was granted to Singapore by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008. Kuala Lumpur claims that it has discovered new documents in British archives which point to Malaysia's original ownership of the island, while Singapore has responded by forming a legal team to study Malaysia's new application to the ICJ. The island is of strategic importance due to its location at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Straits, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.
Morocco: Police seize more than 100,000 ecstasy tablets at Nador port
Police seized 106,870 ecstasy tablets on an international transport bus at the Port of Nador, arresting four suspects. Officials said that the bus was travelling from Belgium to Oujda. Drug trafficking is common in Morocco, which is a transit point for trafficking between Europe, North Africa and Latin America.
Nigeria: Beijing grants USD 1.5 bn in loans for Lagos-Ibadan railway project
The Nigerian Federal Government secured USD 1.5 bn in funding from the China Exim Bank for the Lagos-Ibadan rail project. Minister for Transportation Rotimi Amaechi announced the foundation works for the rail project would be laid in March 2017. The initial phase of the project aims to connect Apapa seaport with Ogun and then Ibadan. The Lagos-Ibadan rail line is part of a flagship infrastructure project of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Philippines: Duterte asks Chinese Navy to patrol Sulu Sea amid piracy threat
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech to newly promoted generals that he has asked China to send coast guard vessels to patrol the Sulu and Celebes seas in order to counter the heightened threat of piracy and kidnapping in these waters. Duterte said he would like Beijing to send a fleet as it did in 2009 to support efforts to counter Somali piracy off the Gulf of Aden. The appeal comes after Manila asked Beijing to supply military equipment to help in its fight against Abu Sayyaf (ASG), the Islamist militant group responsible for the rise in kidnappings-for-ransom in the Sulu and Celebes seas since March 2016.
Sweden: Labour dispute affects box volumes at Gothenburg port
Container volumes at Gothenburg port fell by 3 percent to 798,000 in 2016, due to a lengthy labour dispute between port operators and the Swedish Dockworkers' Union. Although container volumes at the port decreased, total freight volumes were up by almost 3 mn tonnes in 2016, reaching 40.9 mn tonnes compared to 38.2 mn tonnes the previous year.
Yemen: Washington sends navy destroyer to patrol near coast
The US sent a navy destroyer off the coast of Yemen to protect waterways from Houthi militia backed by Iran, according to US officials. The USS Cole arrived in the vicinity of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, where it will carry out patrols including escorting vessels. On 30 January, a Houthi attack on a Saudi warship off the western coast of Yemen killed two crew members.