Weekly Maritime Security Report 11 December 2019
East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Yemen: Houthis claim to shoot down Saudi drone near southern border
Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down two Saudi drones near the Yemen-Saudi border. The two drones were reportedly downed in the Saudi Arabian regions of Jizan and Asir. Saudi officials did not immediately comment on the claim and it remains unclear how the drones were shot down. The incident comes amid ongoing efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict in Yemen in Oman-based talks.
Analysis: Houthi rebels continue to mount attacks in their efforts against Saudi and Saudi-aligned forces. The potential for both sides' armed actions to affect maritime operations in the area remains high.
Egypt: Security forces battle militants in Sinai, kill 3 fighters
The Interior Ministry announced security forces killed three militants in Gelbana, Ismailia governate in North Sinai after an exchange of fire. Security forces seized two firearms, two grenades and ammunition following the incident. It was not immediately reported which group the militants belonged to but the Islamic State affiliate Sinai Peninsula stages frequent attacks against security forces in the northern Sinai.
Analysis: Whilst this incident shows no increase in the direct threat to shipping, it highlights the instability in the region and the potential for threats to spill over into the critical maritime route of the Suez Canal.
Yemen: Government to withdraw 10,000 troops from Yemen
The head of the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok announced the withdrawal of 10,000 Sudanese troops from Yemen. 5,000 troops remain in Yemen. Hamdok said the conflict could not be solved militarily. Sudanese troops have been deployed as part of a Saudi-led alliance that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthi movement that controls Sanaa.
Analysis: it is not clear if the withdrawal of multinational forces from Yemen will have a quantifiable effect on the conflict but indications are that less peacekeeping forces will likely only increase instability in a critical maritime region.
Philippines: Customs seize six containers of smuggled items at Manila port
The bureau of customs seized six containers of smuggled coffee beans, corned beef and used clothing at Manila International Container Port. Of the six containers, five were filled with bags of coffee beans from Hong Kong and cans of corned beef from Brazil, while the other container carried second-hand clothes from South Korea. The food products were falsely declared as textiles, ketchup, and crackers while the clothes were listed as new items given that customs prohibits the import of used clothing. Customs said the seized containers arrived in the country on separate dates
Analysis: Philippines controls on prohibited items remains vigilant with effective controls in place.
Philippines: Government to lift martial law in Mindano
The government is planning not to extend martial law in Mindanao upon its expiration on 31 December 2019, a government spokesperson said. Authorities introduced martial law in the southern Island after about a thousand Islamist militants stormed Marawi in May 2017 and held on to parts of it for five months. Levels of violence have declined in Mindanao in recent months although sporadic attacks continue to be reported.
Analysis: Piracy poses a significant risk in the Philippines, especially in the Sulu Sea (around Mindano), though reports of kidnappings at sea and piracy-related activity have declined since 2017 due to joint military patrols by the Philippines, Indonesia and Indonesia. A decrease in security posture in Mindano may allow more freedom for pirates and maritime criminal elements to operate.
Nigeria: Pirates kidnap 19 foreign crew members off Bonny Island
Pirates kidnapped 19 foreign crew members from a tanker around 77 nm off Bonny Island in the Gulf of Guinea. Most of the abductees are believed to be Indian nationals. The tanker has been reported safe. Niger Delta-based pirates regularly carry out kidnap-for-ransom attacks in the Gulf of Guinea
Analysis: Criminal gangs and former combatants from the Niger Delta are among the primary drivers of maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The response of both Nigerian and regional forces to piracy has been ineffective and Nigerian political and military figures are suspected of profiting from piracy. Pirate gangs operating out of Nigeria are typically heavily armed and respond violently when confronted. Vessels passing through the territorial waters of Nigeria, Benin and Togo face an elevated threat of piracy, but past attacks from Nigeria-based groups have taken place as far as 170 nm off the coast and as far south as Angola. The highest concentration of kidnappings occur in shipping lanes near Bayelsa and Delta states, putting ships using Port Harcourt particularly at risk. There have been multiple other attacks targeting ships while at anchorage off Lagos and other Nigerian ports
Nigeria: Clashes between cult groups kill 3 in Lagos state
Clashes between members of rival cult groups killed three people in the Ikorodu and Ajah areas of Lagos State. Young men from rival groups reportedly launched carried out revenge attacks after one man was killed in unclear conditions on the Igbogbo-Igbe Road on 5 December. Cult clashes are intermittently reported in Nigeria. Media reports did not specify which cult groups were involved in the clashes
Analysis: Tension and insecurity remain rife in Lagos State and around Lagos Lagoon.
Select Maritime News
Brazil: Authorities seize one tonne of cocaine at Santos port
Authorities seized one tonne of cocaine from three containers at unknown terminals of Santos port. Authorities, aided by sniffer dogs, found the narcotics during an overnight anti-narcotic operation. Local media reported that 269 kg of cocaine was bound for Rotterdam port in the Netherlands while the remaining 770 kg of narcotics were bound for Antwerp port in Belgium. Large-scale drug seizures are frequently reported at Santos port.
Philippines: Customs seize 6 containers of smuggled items at Manila port
The bureau of customs seized six containers of smuggled coffee beans, corned beef and used clothing at Manila International Container Port. Of the six containers, five were filled with bags of coffee beans from Hong Kong and cans of corned beef from Brazil, while the other container carried second-hand clothes from South Korea. The food products were falsely declared as textiles, ketchup, and crackers while the clothes were listed as new items given that customs prohibits the import of used clothing. Customs said the seized containers arrived in the country on separate dates.
Iran: US officials seize suspected Iranian missile parts in Arabian Sea
United States officials have said they seized a 'significant cache' of suspected Iranian guided missile parts headed to rebel groups in Yemen. The US maritime forces seized the cache from a small boat in the northern Arabian sea. Tehran has not commented on the seizure.
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