Proven Expertise

Weekly Maritime Security Report 09 January 2018

East Africa and Indian Ocean 

Yemen: Merchant vessels report gunmen in southern Red Sea

6 January

The Dubai-based UK Maritime Trade Operations said it had received reports from three separate merchant vessels that they were approached by gunmen in three grey hulled boats. The boats came within 1 cable of the vessels, but did not mount any attacks. The UKMTO advised shippers to exercise extreme caution in the area, which saw an uptick in pirate activity in 2017.

PGI Analysis: The affiliation of the gunmen remains unclear as both criminal pirates and Houthi militants are known to operate in the southern Red Sea. Although Houthis have typically targeted vessels allied with the Saudi-led coalition, there have been several instances where suspected militants mounted rocket attacks against commercial vessels in the area since late 2016. In December 2017, Houthi rebels said they would attack warships and oil tankers from enemy countries to retaliate against the closure of Yemeni ports by the Saudi-led coalition, as tensions over the alleged supply of Iranian arms to Houthis have escalated in recent months. Such statements have raised concern among international shippers and underscore the varied threats to vessels operating in the region.

South East Asia

Indonesia: Pirates attempt to board bulk carrier off Samarinda

5 January

Five suspected robbers approached an anchored bulk carrier in a small vessel. They attempted to board via the anchor chain at 0130 hrs local time at Muara Berau Anchorage, off Samarinda, Indonesia. Alert duty crew noticed the robbers and shouted at them. The robbers then reportedly moved away.

Malaysia: Pirates attempt to board carrier southwest of Port Dickson

3 January

The officer of the watch on a bulk carrier noticed a speed boat with five masked individuals holding a long hook approaching the vessel at 1400 hrs local time, around 9 nm southwest of Port Dickson in the Malacca Strait. The alarm was raised and the crew mustered with firehoses, prompting the speed boat to move away.

PGI Analysis: The motive behind the attempted boarding in the Malacca Strait is unclear. Maritime security in the region has improved since the end of 2015, stemming the number of hijacking for oil thefts in the region. However, there has been an uptick in piracy-related activity since the end of 2017 and in September armed pirates boarded a product tanker off Kuala Terengganu before stealing 1 mn litres of diesel oil. Although the assailants were apprehended, the incident indicates organised priate groups remain active in the region.

PGI Analysis: The motive behind the attempted boarding in the Malacca Strait is unclear. Maritime security in the region has improved since the end of 2015, stemming the number of hijacking for oil thefts in the region. However, there has been an uptick in piracy-related activity since the end of 2017 and in September armed pirates boarded a product tanker off Kuala Terengganu before stealing 1 mn litres of diesel oil. Although the assailants were apprehended, the incident indicates organised priate groups remain active in the region.

Select Maritime News 

China: Update: US Navy joins search for missing crew after ship collision

8 January

The US Navy has joined Chinese rescue crews searching for 32 missing crew members after an Iranian oil tanker collided with a grain ship in the East China Sea on 7 January. According to Central Television, concerns are growing that the tanker may explode and sink as a fire continues to burn for a second day. The extent of the oil spill from the accident is unknown. The tanker's 32 Iranian and Bangladeshi crew remain unaccounted for. The tanker was travelling from Iran to South Korea when the incident occurred.

China: Tanker, bulk ship collision causes oil spill in East China Sea

7 January

The Sanchi tanker, carrying Iranian oil and registered in Panama, collided with the CF Crystal, a Chinese bulk ship, about 160 nm off the coast near Shanghai, China's ministry of transport said. The collision caused the tanker to catch fire and spill oil in the East China Sea. The tanker's 32 crew members -- 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis -- are missing. The tanker was reportedly travelling from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra-light crude estimated to be worth about USD 60 mn. Chinese officials said four rescue ships and three cleaning boats had been sent to the site of the accident. Further details were not disclosed. According to Reuters, Sanchi, built in 2008, is managed by the National Iranian Tanker Co, and its registered owner is Bright Shipping Ltd.

China: Cargo vessel sinks off Shanghai, leaving 10 crew missing

3 January

Ten crew members are missing after a cargo vessel collided with another vessel and sank at the Wusongkou anchorage off Shanghai, according to a report by state news agency Xinhua. Three people have been rescued so far and the authorities are continuing the search for the missing crew. Few other details have been provided.

Indonesia: Police seize 1.3 tonnes of cannabis at Lampung port

4 January

Police seized 1.3 tonnes of cannabis and arrested six people in a major drug raid on a port near Lampung in Sumatra, according to a police statement. The packages of cannabis were hidden inside several vehicles waiting to cross into West Java. Police told local media that the number of drug-related cases in West Java is up 12 percent since 2015, highlighting the area's increaseingpopularity as a drug smuggling route.

Israel: Workers strike at Ashdod port

2 January

Operation and mechanical equipment workers commenced strike action at the port of Ashdod to protest the management's decision to hire new employees. Some delays have been reported at the port as a result of the action.

Libya: Navy intercepts nearly 300 migrants off Garabulli

7 January

The navy intercepted 297 undocumented migrants in two inflatable boats off the coast of northern Garabulli, 60 km from Tripoli. The navy also said it found the body of two women who had died due to overcrowded conditions on the vessels. Libya's western coast remains the main departure point for migrants trying to reach European shores, although numbers have dropped significantly in recent months due to anti-human smuggling measures supported by the unity government.

Philippines: Cocaine worth USD 2.5 mn washes up on eastern seashore

5 January

Anti-narcotics officials found 24 kg of cocaine worth USD 2.5 mn packed in a plastic drum in the town of Matnog in eastern Philippines. The cocaine bricks were wrapped in plastic and placed in the drum, and the source of the narcotics may be a Taiwan-flagged cargo vessel that was hit by huge waves off the eastern Philippines a day before the cocaine was found, Christian Frivaldo, a regional director of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said. Nine Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwanese crewmen are in custody after they were rescued from their damaged ship. The incident comes amid the ongoing war on drugs launched by President Rodrigo Duterte in which thousands of people have been killed.

Spain: Authorities seize 42 kg of cocaine at Algeciras port

2 January

Police seized 42 kg of cocaine from a toilet on board a container ship that came from Panama and that had docked at the port of Algeciras. The drug was found concealed in the ceiling of a toilet compartment. Two people were charged. The discovery was the result of a joint operation between police officers and the tax agency.

United Kingdom: HMS Westminster intercepts Russian naval vessels in English Channel

8 January

The Royal Navy sent frigate HMS Westminster to intercept Russian naval vessels in the English Channel during the morning. It was the latest in a series of incidents of Russian units transiting UK waters. In November 2017, tensions were raised when Russian destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov passed through the English Channel without permission.

Venezuela: Maduro orders shutdown of air, maritime traffic with three neighbours

5 January

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the temporary shutdown of all flights and ship traffic to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao for 72 hours, accusing the countries of running black markets that were robbing the country. It is not clear if a specific event triggered the shutdown, although Maduro has imposed similar restrictions in the past, blaming criminal networks from neighboring countries for shortage in resources in Venezuela, which is suffering a crippling economic crisis that has led to severe food shortages.

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