Weekly Maritime Security Report 14 Feb 2017
East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Yemen: Heavily armed assailants approach vessel off the coast of Haswayn
A skiff with six armed persons on board approached a merchant vessel at 0530 hrs local time off Yemen's east coast, 37 nm south of the town of Haswayn. The skiff approached the vessel from the port side and crossed the bow to the starboard side, and the captain of the vessel reported heavy weaponry and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) on board the skiff. The merchant vessel sounded the alarm, increased speed, activated hoses and armed guards on board displayed weapons, leading to the retreat of the skiff.
PGI Analysis: Security incidents off Yemen have typically clustered around the Bab el Mandeb and southern Red Sea in recent months, with this latest incident marking the most easterly suspicious activity reported off Yemen's coastline in the past two years. The perpetrators and motive behind the incident remain unclear. The incident bears the hallmarks of previous approaches around the Bab el Mandeb, where much of the fighting in the Yemeni conflict has taken place in recent months, and the location of the approach indicates armed actors in the region may be increasing their area of operation. In several previous incidents since July 2016, perpetrators have been armed with RPGs and conducted aggressive manoeuvres similar to those described in the report, although on some occasions embarked security teams also had to fire warning shots to deter aggressors. PGI will continue to monitor the situation via the Risk Portal.
Nigeria: Two skiffs attack merchant vessel off the coast of Bonny Island
According to a late report, two unidentified skiffs approached and attacked a merchant vessel 52 nm off the coast of Bonny Island. The attack occurred at 1915 hrs local time. There were no initial reports on casualties or on the nature of the attack.
PGI Analysis: The attack comes one day after pirates abducted seven Russian nationals and one Ukrainian national from a cargo vessel, owned by Briese Shipping BV, in the region on 6 January. Further details of the incident were not disclosed, although it is likely it was an attempted kidnap for ransom attack, as the region has seen a series of abductions at sea in the past year amid an uptick in insecurity in the Niger Delta.
Select Maritime News
Bahrain: Security forces kill three fugitives off Port Khalifa
Three fugitives were killed by Bahraini security forces after they were spotted in a vessel off Port Khalifa allegedly attempting to flee to Iran. The three were among 10 inmates serving sentences for terrorism who escaped Jaw prison after the facility was stormed by four gunmen on 1 January. Security forces seized a Kalashnikov-style rifle, a GPS system, satellite phone, ID cards and money from the vessel.
Bangladesh: Port workers initiate wildcat strike at Karnaphuli River jetties
The port workers' union Bangladesh Lighterage Workers' Union called a wildcat strike at sixteen jetties on the Karnaphuli River over the implementation of a new wage structure. The union issued an ultimatum to vessel owners to implement an agreed USD 120 minimum wage on 13 February, threatening further strikes. The Water Transport Cell (WTC) claimed 60 lighter vessels were stranded on the Karnaphuli River due to the strike.
Bangladesh: Thieves steal paint from ship off Kutibidia Island
According to a late report, robbers boarded a supply vessel anchored off Kutibidia Island and stole a large amount of paint after breaking into the paint locker. The theft was noticed by crew when they commenced work in the morning.
China: Satellite images suggest Chinese military build-up in South China Sea
New satellite images analysed by the Washington-based think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies indicate an increased Chinese military build-up on the disputed Paracel islands in the South China Sea. The images show 20 outposts in the Paracels, with extensive military infrastructure on eight islands. Three of these islands now have protected harbours capable of hosting large numbers of military and civilian ships. Five islands have helipads, and the largest island, Woody Island, has an airstrip, hangars and a series of surface-to-air missiles. The images come amid heightened tensions with the US, which has threatened to block China from its activities in the disputed waters.
Costa Rica: Government aiming to build mega port
A USD 1 bn mega port proposed for the Caribbean coast near the Panama Canal aims to make Costa Rica a major logistics centre. The facility, which would be built in Moin, Limon province, is a private project being developed by the AMEGA international consortium. The consortium received approval from the government to develop a concession proposal that includes technical feasibility, environmental impact and financing studies on 3 February.
Iran: Maritime agency promises no limitations to returning liners
The Managing Director of the Ports and Maritime Organisation (PMO) Mohammad Saeed Nejad announced that Iran will not put any limitations on maritime liners seeking to return to the country. A total of 27 international liner companies that used to call at Iranian ports were forced to halt visiting the country under economic sanctions. The move by Iran is a bid to attract major shipping companies to the country, which is seeking to boost its economy after sanctions.
Liberia: Coast guard arrests Senegalese ship for illegal fishing
The Liberian coast guard boarded the Senegalese "Hispasen 7" ship for illegally fishing in its waters. The ship reportedly lacked crew contracts, fishing licences and sanitation certificates. The crew was escorted to Monrovia for further investigation by Liberian authorities.
Malawi: Lilongwe, Dodoma to resume talks over disputed lake
Malawian President Peter Mutharika announced that Tanzania and Malawi would resume dialogue to resolve the long-running dispute over the lake known as Lake Malawi in Lilongwe and Lake Nyasa in Tanzania. The announcement comes after a meeting to discuss the issue, which has complicated oil and gas exploration in the lake.
Myanmar: Anti-Rohingya activists protest against Malaysian aid ship at Yangon
Tens of hardline Buddhist activists gathered at Yangon's Thilawa port to protest against the arrival of a Malaysian ship carrying aid for the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority, which is facing a brutal crackdown in western Rakhine state. The protesters reportedly blocked 200 volunteers from disembarking the vessel, which set off from Malaysia a week prior with 2,200 tonnes of rice, medical aid and clothing. Malaysia has been one of the top critics of Myanmar for the crackdown, which has left at least 1,000 people dead since it began in October 2016.
Myanmar: Patrol ship kills Bangladeshi fisherman on Naf River
A Myanmar Navy patrol vessel opened fire on a Bangladeshi fishing boat on the Naf River, leaving one fisherman dead. Police from Bangladesh's Teknaf district have said the vessel from Myanmar opened fire while approaching the fishing boat at high speed, though Myanmar has said the incident occurred because the patrol vessel felt it was under attack from eight "illegal" fishing boats which surrounded it. The incident comes amid a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine State, with at least 1,000 believed to have been killed since October 2016. Hard-line Myanmarese Buddhists, including many in the military, consider the Rohingya to be illegal Bengali migrants. Some 70,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh since the crisis began.
Pakistan: Naval exercises with nine countries begin in Karachi
The Pakistani navy's multinational exercise Aman-2017 began in Karachi, with Australia, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the UK, the US, Japan and Russia participating along with their naval assets. The participants will rehearse various naval operations to enhance mutual understanding and regional stability with an aim to foster cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts and in action against maritime crimes.
Four robbers in a small boat came alongside and boarded an anchored bulk carrier using climbing rope at Callao Anchorage. They took hostage a duty crew member by tying him up, and then stole ship's stores and the personal belongings of crew before escaping. The duty officer then raised the alarm, crew mustered and a search was carried out.
Philippines: Manila asks Washington, Beijing to help counter pirate threat in Sulu Sea
According to Philippine coast guard officials, Manila has asked both China and the US to help counter the threat of piracy by Islamist militants in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, amid a surge in abductions on the key trade route since March 2016. Coast Guard chief Joel Garcia said that Manila does not want the Sibutu Passage between Malaysia's Sabah and the southern Philippines to turn into a Somalia-style pirate haven. The call for assistance to both the US and China comes amid heightened tensions between the countries over new US President Donald Trump's threats against Beijing's activities in the South China Sea, as well as the US's deployment of an anti-missile shield in South Korea.
Philippines: Defence secretary believes Beijing will try to build on contested reef
Philippine defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said he believes China will try to build military infrastructure on the South China Sea's contested Scarborough Shoal, which is some 230 km from the main Philippine island of Luzon. He said this would be "unacceptable" but predictable, given they have already established military infrastructure on three islands in the Spratlys. The new US administration of Donald Trump has said it will block China from operating in the disputed areas, increasing tensions with Beijing and the Manila, which has warned against an escalation of the situation.
Sri Lanka: Navy arrests 10 Indian fishermen
The Sri Lankan navy arrested at least 10 Indian fishermen along with their boats in Delft island, according to media reports. The fishermen reportedly hail from Rameswaram in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu. A disputed maritime boundary has led to frequent arrests of fishermen on either side on charges of poaching.
United States: Storm causes port closures, thousands of flight cancellations
A severe snowstorm hit the northeast, leaving up to 30 cm of snow, and causing two deaths. The storm had wind gusts of up to 80 kph, causing dangerous driving conditions, particularly in Boston and New York. Nearly two-thirds of flights into or out of three major New York-area airports were cancelled, as were 69 percent of flights at Boston Logan International Airport. The Port of New York and New Jersey also closed, with the managing director at APM Terminals stating the terminal has not yet decided how to make up the time lost due to the closure.
Venezuela: Government to charge former oil port chief for corruption
The government announced it would charge former manager of the state oil company PDVSA's main crude oil export port over corruption charges. The allegations against Jesus Osaorio concern the purchase of two monobuoys for USD 76.2 mn. PDVSA faces multiple accusations of corruption.