Weekly Maritime Security Report 13 June 2017
East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Yemen: Skiffs approach merchant vessel off Perim Island
A merchant vessel reported that eight or nine suspicious skiffs approached the vessel 9 nm southeast of Perim Island in the Bab el Mandeb strait, and that weapons were sighted on the skiffs. The skiffs came within 1 nm of the vessel. Further details surrounding the incident were not immediately disclosed, although it comes after similar reports of around nine skiffs in the area acting suspiciously in recent days.
Yemen: Vessel reports suspicious skiff in southern Red Sea
A merchant vessel reported that it was approached by a skiff 4 nm west of Jazirat al Hanish al Kabir Island in the southern Red Sea. The vessel said no weapons were sighted, although the skiff made erratic manoeuvres and came within 2 nm of the vessel. The incident is the latest report of suspicious skiff activity in the southern Red Sea and Bab el Mandeb in recent days.
Yemen: Skiffs follow merchant vessel in Bab el Mandeb
A merchant vessel reported that it was followed by nine skiffs, 12 nm off Yemen in the Bab el Mandeb, at 0900 hrs local time. The vessel said no weapons were sighted although the skiffs came within 0.4 nm of the vessel, and followed it for 20-30 minutes. The vessel reported it was safe following the incident. Several vessels have reported suspicious activity by around nine skiffs in the region in recent days.
Yemen: Tanker reports attack in Bab el Mandeb
A Marshall Islands-flagged tanker reported that it came under attack 12 nm off the coast of Yemen in the Bab el Mandeb. The tanker said a skiff with four persons on board approached the vessel although further details of the attack were not immediately reported. The vessel was reported as safe after the incident. The incident comes after a Singapore-flagged tanker reported it was approached by nine skiffs in the strait on 3 June.
PGI Analysis: The series of late reports follows the rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack on an oil tanker in the Bab el Mandeb on 31 May, and comes amid an uptick in reports of suspicious approaches and suspect activity in the region since the end of May. The identities of those behind the approaches and attacks are unclear, although they are likely linked to the ongoing Yemeni conflict, which has seen an escalation of the conflict at sea in recent months. Houthi rebels have previously targeted vessels linked to the Saudi-led coalition fighting the group in Yemen, and have demonstrated the capability to attack underway vessels in the region, targeting a UAE logistics vessel in October 2016 and attacking a Saudi frigate on 18 February 2017. The incidents have raised concerns among the international shipping community over growing insecurity in the waters off Yemen.
Indonesia: Armed robbers steal ship's property off Bintan Island
Two robbers armed with knives boarded a tanker and threatened the duty officer with a knife before stealing ship's stores at 0255 hrs local time as it was anchored 8 nm north of Bintan Island. The assailants held the duty officer hostage and took his walkie talkie before entering the engine room through the steering flat door.
PGI Analysis: Violent robberies are periodically reported off Indonesia, with attackers threatening and tying up crew members who attempt to disrupt their activities, although assailants are typically easily deterred and flee when confronted. Nevertheless, crew should take precautions when anchored off Indonesia to guard against boardings, particularly at night when thieves seek to take advantage of reduced visibility.
Nigeria: Gunmen abduct two people off the coast of Bonny Island
Five unidentified gunmen boarded a tug boat at 1855 hrs local time off the coast of Bonny Island and abducted the captain and the chief engineer. The gunmen were reportedly armed with Kalashnikovs and a heavy machine gun.
PGI Analysis: Criminal groups active in the Niger Delta regularly conduct kidnappings at sea off Nigeria, typically targeting vessels 20-100 nm off the coast. Attackers often target senior crew members as they are perceived to solicit larger ransom payments than more junior crew.
Sierra Leone: Robber boards bulk carrier at Freetown Anchorage
A robber boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Freetown Anchorage at 0303 hrs local time. Crew raised the alarm upon sighting the robber, prompting the assailant to flee empty-handed.
PGI Analysis: Petty thefts are sporadically reported at Freetown Anchorage, although many other incidents are likely to go unreported, given Sierra Leone's high crime rates.
Select Maritime News
China: Beijing denounces Pentagon report of South China Sea militarisation
The Chinese foreign ministry has denounced the annual US Department of Defence's report to Congress which claimed China was building fighter jet hangars and fixed-weapons systems on the Spratly islands, in the disputed South China Sea. The report claimed China had spent USD 180 bn in 2016 on its military, a figure well over the country's publicised military budget of USD 140 mn, in a bid to boost military bases on key reefs in the Spratlys. Beijing has said the report is "irresponsible" and refused to comment on "speculation". The revelation, if true, comes as President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, which claims jurisdiction over the Spratlys, attempts to reduce tensions with China by promoting resource-sharing in the South China Sea.
China: Washington accuses Beijing of building fighter jet hangers, weapons systems on Spratlys
The US Department of Defence has accused China of constructing fighter jet hangers as well as fixed-weapons systems and other military infrastructure on the disputed Spratly islands, in the South China Sea. In its annual report to Congress, the defence authorities said China has boosted its military capabilities on its three largest outposts - Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs - since late 2016. Once the outposts are complete, China will be able to house up to three regiments of soldiers on the Spratly islands, which are claimed by the Philippines. The statement by Washington comes as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attempts to ease tensions with Beijing by saying he is in favour of resource-sharing in the South China Sea. The US has maintained its opposition to China's claims, which the US sees as a threat to freedom of navigation in the important trade route and a violation of international law.
Colombia: Protesters to lift blockade of Buenaventura port
The government reported it had reached a deal with community leaders to end the blockade of Buenaventura port, initiated on 24 May. Transport officials said the strike delayed approximately 309,000 tonnes of cargo along with 33,635 shipping containers. The blockade also reportedly caused tens of millions of dollars in losses for ports and local service providers. It could take up to 14 days to clear the cargo. Under the deal reached, Congress will approve a 10-year development plan for Buenaventura, where local residents have staged protests since May alleging years of state neglect and widespread poverty.
Cote d'Ivoire: Tanker collision leads to oil spill off the coast of Assinie
An oil tanker collided with a fishing boat off the coast of Assinie, leading to an oil spill. According to local media sources, some 500 cubic metres of oil spilled into the ocean. Minister of Health, Environment and Sustainable Development, Anne Oulotto, announced that authorities had deployed boats to the area to address the situation and that an emergency plan was set up to contain the spill. It remains unclear what led to the collision between the two vessels.
Cote d'Ivoire: Three gendarmes drown during security exercise in Adiaké department
A police boat capsized during a security exercise off the coast of Assinie in the Adiaké department. Thee gendarmes drowned while one remains missing following the incident. Some five gendarmes survived the accident and were transported to Abidjan for medical care. The cause of the accident remains unclear and no further details were reported on the accident.
Indonesia: Authorities release 695 Vietnamese fishermen detained over incursion
Indonesia released 695 Vietnamese fishermen who were detained after straying into its waters. Some fishermen had been in the detention centres for as long as two years, local authorities said. The fishermen's release comes after Vietnam returned an Indonesian patrolman it had rescued from a boat accident in May.
Indonesia: Jakarta to build military bases near Philippine border amid threats
Indonesia's top military commander, General Gatot Nurmantyo, announced Indonesia will build new military bases in its outermost islands including Morotai Island in North Maluku, close to the Philippine border. The general said the location of Morotai base was aimed at preventing the operations of Islamist kidnap groups, including Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which has kidnapped tens of Indonesian sailors since March 2016. Another military base is being built at Riau Island, which has become a hotspot for jurisdictional disputes with China, which asserts control over most of the South China Sea.
Ireland: Navy to join EU counterterrorism operations in Mediterranean
Irish policymakers have expressed their intent to order the country's Irish naval service to join EU operations in the Mediterranean to counter terrorism and human trafficking. Due to constitutional clauses regarding neutrality, joining the EU mission would require the approval of the cabinet and the parliament. The Irish navy already participates in anti-trafficking operations near Libya.
Mexico: Regulator fines shipping companies over price fixing
Mexico's antitrust agency COFECE fined seven shippers a total of USD 32 mn for operating a cartel for vehicle carrier services and hindering competition. The individual penalties for each shipper, which included K-Line, CSAV and NYK, were not specified.
Myanmar: Army plane carrying 120 people crashes in Andaman Sea
A Chinese-made Y-8-200F Myanmar Army aircraft with 120 people on board, including soldiers, family members and staff, crashed into the Andaman Sea, about 70 km west of the town of Dawei in Tanintharyi. The plane lost contact 29 minutes after it took off from the coastal town of Myeik around 1300 hrs local time. It was travelling north to Yangon on a regular weekly flight that stops in several coastal towns. The military mobilised six navy ships and three aircraft to search for the plane. A military spokesperson said some bodies and debris from the plane were found after overnight searches.
Tunisia: Ferry agents strike in Djerba
Ferry agents in Djerba went on strike at 0000 hrs local time on 6 June. The industrial action affects ferry routes between Jorf and Djerba Ajim. The strike was called to pressure authorities to implement agreements previously signed with former officials, according to a union representative.