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Weekly Maritime Security Report 11 September 2018

South East Asia 

Malaysia: Suspected militants kidnap two fishermen off Sabah state

11 September

Police reported that two fishermen were kidnapped by suspected members of Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the waters off Semporna in Sabah state in the early hours on 11 September. Four crew members were on a fishing vessel docked at the Pulau Gaya jetty when the kidnapping reportedly took place during curfew hours at approximately 0100 hrs local time. Some reports indicated three fishermen had been kidnapped and that an initial probe showed that the masked kidnappers were carrying M16 rifles.

PGI Analysis: If confirmed, the incident would be the first kidnapping by ASG militants in the region in over a year. The kidnapping comes weeks after suspected militants attempted to kidnap crew from a tugboat off Lahad Datu in Sabah state on 10 August and a similar attempt was reported off Basilan province in the Philippines in February, indicating the group have continued operations in the area. Authorities have implemented a series of curfews to combat the kidnappings by the group since July 2014 although ASG has conducted regular kidnappings targeting vessels in the Sulu and Celebes seas in recent years, particularly between March 2016 and March 2017.

Select Maritime News

Eritrea: Ethiopian commercial ship calls at Massawa port

5 September

An Ethiopian commercial vessel docked at the Red Sea port of Massawa and was due to carry 11,000 tonnes of Eritrean zinc to China, according to Ethiopian state news. The incident marked the first time an Ethiopian commercial vessel had called at an Eritrean port in 20 years. Ethiopia has voiced its intention to strengthen transport links between Eritrea so it can use Eritrean ports for its imports and exports.

China: Beijing warns London that alleged naval incursion threatens trade talks

7 September

Beijing expressed strong dissatisfaction after a British navy vessel sailed close to islands in the South China Sea claimed by China and warned that such incidents risk hampering talks of a trade deal after Britain leaves the EU, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper. Reuters reported that a 22,000-tonne navy warship passed near the Paracel, or Xisha, Islands, claimed by China on 31 August on its way to Vietnam. The warship illegally entered territorial waters without permission from the Chinese government, the China Daily quoted a foreign ministry spokesperson as saying. The incident comes after China and Britain had agreed to actively explore the possibility of discussing a free-trade agreement after Brexit. China's maritime territorial claims infringe on Vietnam's UN-defined exclusive economic zone by more than 100 nautical miles.

Iraq: Protest halts operations at Umm Qasr port

6 September

Protesters continued to block the entrance to the Umm Qasr port in Basra overnight, prompting authorities to halt operations at the terminal, local media reported. The protesters denounced corruption and demanded better public services. Umm Qasr is a key import hub for grain, vegetable oil and sugar shipments. There was no immediate indication when operations would restart.

Iraq: Umm Qasr port reopens after protesters leave entrance

8 September

Umm Qasr port in Basra reopened at 0300 hrs local time and all operations have resumed after protesters left the port's entrance, Reuters reported government sources in the area as saying. All operations had been halted since 6 August, after protesters blocked the port's entrance. The protesters denounced corruption and demanded better public services. Umm Qasr is a key import hub for grain, vegetable oil and sugar shipments.

Mexico: Authorities seize 2,600 kg of cocaine from semi-submersible

5 September

Mexican authorities seized 2,600 kg of cocaine from a semi-submersible vessel in an undisclosed location in the Pacific Ocean. Authorities arrested three drug traffickers, two Colombian nationals and one Ecuadorian. Officials believe the vessel was attempting to smuggle cocaine into the US where the market value of the drug is significantly higher than in Mexico.

Morocco: Authorities arrest two police officers linked to human trafficking network

9 September

Authorities at Beni Ensar port arrested two police officers suspected of allowing a human trafficking network to smuggle migrants through the port. The arrests come the day after authorities arrested an employee of an unspecified shipping company and a customs agent accused of belonging to the same network. Hundreds of migrants have attempted to either cross the Mediterranean to mainland Spain or to access the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Beni Ansar in 2018.

Puerto Rico: CBP, FURA agents seize 12 kg of cocaine in Fajardo

5 September

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Joint Forces for Rapid Action (FURA) agents seized 12.4 kg of cocaine from an abandoned vessel in the Fajardo River during a joint operation with Puerto Rican Police. FURA agents spotted the vessel travelling at high speed before it crashed. The CBP stated the drugs had a total estimated street value of USD 347,000. US forces are participating in Operation Stonegarden Grant Program, a combined operation with Puerto Rican law enforcement agencies to secure the Caribbean island's coastal areas.

Tunisia: Freight-transport unions to launch three-day strike

5 September

Three major unions of the freight-transport industry have postponed a three-day strike due to take place on 6-8 September until 17-19 October. The planned industrial action has been prompted by grievances over increases in fuel prices, competition from black-market transporters and the perceived lack of implementation of regulations. The strike will likely disrupt maritime, ground and air freight operations nationwide, although it could be cancelled if unions reach an agreement with the government.

United Kingdom: Authorities seize drugs, weapons on lorry in Dover

9 September

Authorities seized 20 handguns, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and 410 kg of drugs in a lorry at Dover Port. Two Polish nationals were arrested in relation to the case. The shipment included 300 kg of methamphetamine, 50 kg of ketamine, 50 kg of cocaine and 10 kg of heroin and was listed for delivery in Cardiff.

United Kingdom: Authorities seize 400 kg of drugs at Killingholme Port

8 September

Authorities seized 400 kg of cocaine and heroin in a lorry transporting vegetables at Killingholme Port, Lincolnshire. A Romanian national was arrested in relation to the seizure. The shipment originated from the Netherlands, local media sources reported.

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