Weekly Maritime Security Report 20 December 2019
East Africa and Indian Ocean
Yemen: Houthi shelling hits farms in coastal Hodeidah
Houthi rebels launched a shelling attack which hit a farm in the Tuhyata district of Hodeidah. The shelling caused extensive damage to the farm, though no civilian casualties have yet been reported. In October, the UN deployed cease-fire observers in Hodeidah and established five observation points near the military contact lines between the warring sides.
Analysis: Whilst this incident shows no increase in the risk to shipping in the area, it shows the delicate nature of the conflict in coastal regions where hostilities have, in the past, spilled into the littoral.
Greece: Pirates released 3 crew members of seized tanker
Pirates released three crew members of a Greek-flagged tanker who were kidnapped off the coast of Togo on 4 November, the tanker's manager announced. The fourth abducted crew member, a Philippine national, died during captivity.
Maldives: Significant floods reported in Male
Significant floods have been reported in Male, notably in the southwest of the city, following heavy rainfall across the country. According to the Maldives Meteorological Services, more rain is forecast across the country through at least 15 December, prompting authorities to advise against all but necessary sea travel between islands. Transportation and business disruptions are likely over the coming days.
Libya: Head of eastern-based parliament says maritime deal with Turkey is invalid
The head of Libya's eastern-based parliament aligned with warlord General Khalifa Haftar said the accord between Libya and Turkey establishing maritime boundaries is invalid. Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador over the accord establishing a sea corridor between Libya and Turkey and in areas where Greece considers it has maritime rights.
Analysis: The development is likely to add to insecurity in the coastal area off Libya, especially for Turkish flagged vessels.
Phillipines: Customs seize 48 containers of sugar at Manila port
Customs seized at least 48 containers of refined sugar from China at Manila port, local media reported. The sugar was falsely declared as steel, screws, clamps, nails and hardware fittings. The containers arrived between August and September but were only examined in November. Smuggling attempts in the Philippines often falsely declare items to avoid higher duties when the goods are imported into the country.
Analysis: Security successes on the part of the Philippines' authority signal positive signs for maritime and port security in the region.
Indonesia: Magnitude 5.6 earthquake strikes off the coast of Sumatra
The US Geological Survey recorded a 5.6-magnitude earthquake around 116 km south-southwest of Sungai Penuh, Sumatra Island. The quake hit at around 2149 hrs local time at a depth of 30 km. No tsunami warning was immediately issued. Aftershocks are possible in the affected area over the coming hours and days.
Vanuatu: Magnitude 5.9 earthquake strikes off coast of Gaua
The US Geological Survey recorded a 5.9-magnitude earthquake south-southeast of Gaua, Banks Islands. The quake hit at approximately 1557 hrs local time at a depth of 27 km. Officials did not issue a tsunami warning and there were no reports of casualties or infrastructural damage in the area. Vanuatu lies on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' and regularly experiences natural disasters, including cyclones, volcanic activity, earthquakes and tsunamis, with over 2,000 seismic events reported each year.
Malaysia: Maritime forces seize Vietnamese oil tanker found off coast
Malaysian maritime forces seized Vietnamese oil tanker Viet Tin 01 after it was found adrift off the Malaysian coast. The tanker reportedly visited North Korea in February according to Reuters. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency said a team of officers boarded the tanker after it was found anchored without authorization just off the southern Malaysian state of Johor.
Analysis: Seas around Malaysia continue to experience heightened tension.
Togo: India says 20 crew kidnapped from tanker off Togo
India's foreign ministry has said that 20 of its nationals had been kidnapped from an oil tanker in West African waters, where piracy has been on the rise. The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, Duke, was attacked by pirates about 115 nautical miles (about 213km) southeast of the coast of Lome, the capital of Togo. The ship's operator wrote that the craft was "attacked and boarded" while carrying fuel oil to Lome from Angola and that the company was working with relevant authorities to resolve the incident.
Analysis: The shipping industry has warned in recent months about increased incidents of piracy and kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria.
Togo: Abducted crew member dies as 3 more are released
The Elka Aristotle tanker was attacked off Togo in early November with four of its crew members abducted. Three crew members have been released But one Filipino seafarer died while being held hostage. The four seafarers were on the Greek-flagged tanker, which was attacked by pirates off Togo in early November. The pirates abducted them and left the vessel. Last week, the nine seafarers abducted from a supramax carrier off Benin in early November were released.
Analysis: While West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea in particular has been a perilous region for seafarers for years, the past month has been especially violent.
Select Maritime News
Gulf Region:International maritime protection plans
US Naval deployments include the Carrier Strike Group 72 in (USS Abraham Lincoln) with the US 5th Fleet in The Gulf in support of the US-led International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC - Op SENTINEL) to protect shipping in the region. There is a similar European initiative planned for early 2020 which will coordinate with IMSC: mounted out of France's naval base in Abu Dhabi the mission is planned to involve approximately 10 nations including the UK (who are involved in the IMSC now). Believing there is a heightened risk of security incidents in the Straits of Hormuz, the UK Dept for Transport said the aim of the missions is to ensure "UK-flagged ships will soon be able to transit the Strait of Hormuz without close Royal Naval accompaniment..."
Gulf of Guinea: VLCC hijack highlights growing Gulf of Guinea security concerns
Attack signals that security and hardening measures are needed for all types of ships up to 100 nautical miles out from ports in the West African region, says International Maritime Bureau. The comment came after the VLCC attack on 3 December where 19 crew members were abducted and are still being held on shore. The vessel in question was attacked 76 nm offshore whilst transiting without a security escort. The Gulf of Guinea is now rated (by the International Maritime Bureau) as the most dangerous region for piracy accounting for 86% of crew kidnappings and hostage-taking globally. Pirate gangs often operate from mother ships over 100 nm from shore. It was the 4th vessel to have crew kidnapped in 2019.
Peru: Authorities seize 2 tonnes of cocaine from submarine in the Pacific
Authorities seized 2 tonnes of cocaine from a submarine in the Pacific Ocean some 300 km of the coast. It is unclear how authorities found the vessel. The seizure took place on 8 December though authorities only released information regarding the incident on 12 December. Authorities arrested one Ecuadorian and two Mexican individuals at the scene. According to initial reports the submarine departed from southern Ecuador, near the border with Peru and was bound for Mexico. Drug gangs in Peru and Colombia are known for using submarines to transport narcotics to avoid detection.