Weekly Maritime Security Report 22 November 2017
East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Somalia: EUNAVFOR arrests pirates after RPG attack against container vessel
The EU's Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) reported that it apprehended six pirates targeting a 52,000-tonne container ship and a fishing vessel in the southern Somali Basin between 17-18 November. EUNAVFOR said rocket-propelled grenades were fired against the vessel during the attack, although the presence of an embarked security team and good seamanship prevented any damage or injuries. The pirates were arrested by the Italian Marines' ITS Virginio Fasan after a search by a SH-90 helicopter and patrol boats.
Yemen: Merchant vessel reports suspicious approach in Gulf of Aden
A merchant vessel reported sighting a skiff with a ladder that approached it within one nautical mile in the Gulf of Aden, near Point B of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), at around 2203 hrs local time. The merchant vessel increased its speed and managed to escape, with both crew and vessel being reported safe. Mariners are advised to exercise extreme caution when transiting this area.
Yemen: Chinese navy disperses three suspected pirate vessels in Gulf of Aden
A destroyer from the Chinese naval escort taskforce reported that it dispersed three suspected pirate boats as it escorted a vessel in the Gulf of Aden at 1630 hrs local time. The destroyer detected the boats with photoelectric sensors and accelerated to intercept them, prompting them to flee the area at high speed. There has been a significant uptick in pirate activity in the Gulf of Aden since the Aris 13 hijacking in March 2017.
PGI Analysis: The attack comes after a significant increase in piracy activity in the designated High Risk Area since the hijacking of the Aris 13 bunkering tanker in the Socotra Gap in March. The RPG attack on 18 November marks the first of its kind in central and southern Somalia in recent years, as such attacks have previously been confined to the Bab el Mandeb off Yemen since 2015. The incident underscores the fast-evolving security environment in the waters off Somalia and indicates pirates may be expanding their capabilities in order to successfully execute further kidnap attacks at sea.
South East Asia
Indonesia: Armed robbers board tanker north of Bintan island
Three robbers armed with knives boarded an anchored product tanker 12 nm north of Berakit, Bintan island, at around 0430 hrs local time. The duty crew on routine rounds reportedly noticed the robbers and raised the alarm. The robbers then escaped with ship's properties.
PGI Analysis: Violent robberies are occasionally reported on vessels anchored off Indonesia although most robbers are easily deterred. Petty thieves typically conduct robberies overnight or in the early hours of the morning using small boats to take advantage of reduced visibility, underscoring the need for continued vigilance when at anchor in the region.
Nigeria: Pirates attack bulk carrier 20 nm off Niger Delta
A Liberia-flagged bulk carrier reported that it came under attack at 1100 hrs local time 20 nm south-southwest of Bonny Island in the restive Niger Delta region. The vessel accelerated speed as crew barricaded themselves into the citadel, deterring the pirates. The vessel and crew were later reported as safe.
Nigeria: Vessel reports attempted hijacking off Bonny Island
An unspecified vessel reported an attempted hijacking at 0945 hrs local time 60 nm southwest of Bonny Island. Seven suspected pirates approached the vessel on a 5-metre-long boat. Reports did not disclose whether the hijacking was successful or if casualties were incurred.
PGI Analysis: Kidnap for ransom attacks targeting commercial vessels are common in the Gulf of Guinea although the number of reported incidents has increased in recent weeks, prompting US maritime authorities to issue a warning in October. Many attacks are successful in instances where crew fail to barricade themselves in the citadel, or in the event the vessel does not have embarked security.
Select Maritime News
Cote d'Ivoire: Abidjan port increases terminal capacity
Authorities at Abidjan Autonomous Port announced the instalment of two new container-carrying cranes. The addition increases the number of cranes at the port to seven, and will improve the port's capacity to deal with growing trade at its terminal. The port authority said the purchase was in line with its investment plans to develop the port.
China: Panama opens embassy in Beijing, supports "One China"
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela expressed his support for the "One China" policy on 16 November as his country opened its first embassy in Beijing, five months after breaking ties with Taiwan. Varela was on a week-long visit to China, and met President Xi Jinping on 17 November to sign 20 agreements. In June, Panama announced it was cutting ties with Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be a breakaway state, and declared its intention to establish full diplomatic relations with China. The deals being signed are expected to cover areas including maritime trade, tourism, and judicial cooperation.
Colombia: Armed robbers steal from chemical tanker at Mamonal anchorage
Robbers armed with knives boarded a chemical tanker anchored at Mamonal anchorage. Crew members on routine rounds noticed the robbers and notified an officer who raised the alarm, prompting the robbers to escape with property stolen from the ship. Port authorities were informed and a search for the robbers was carried out. There were no reports of injuries from the incident.
Japan: US military vessel sustains damage in tug collision in Sagami Bay
According to officials, a US destroyer, the USS Benfold, sustained damage after a collision with a tug during a scheduled towing exercise in Sagami Bay. The tug lost power and drifted into the vessel. There have been repeated maritime incidents involving the US navy in Asian waters in recent months, prompting concerns that the navy is overtaxing its personnel. In June, the USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo vessel, leaving seven sailors dead.
Kuwait: Customs seize counterfeit items in Shuwaikh port
Authorities seized four containers of counterfeit items from China, including bags, sunglasses, makeup chargers and electronics at Shuwaikh near Kuwait City. The goods were falsely marked as international brands and the makeup reportedly contained carcinogenic materials. There were no reports of arrests in connection with the seizure.
Palau: Japanese fishing vessel capsizes off Palau, leaving seven missing
A Japanese fishing vessel capsized about 410 km southwest of Palau on 21 November amid high seas, leaving at least seven fishermen missing - two Japanese and five Indonesian nationals. The Japanese coast guard deployed a plane and a patrol ship to the area to attempt to find the missing persons after the capsized ship sent out an SOS signal. Nearby vessels assisting in the search included a ship belonging to Japan's National Fisheries University, and Tokyo has appealed to the US naval forces at Guam for assistance. The cause of the capsizing was unclear.
Philippines: Manila, Beijing agree to avoid force in South China Sea dispute
China and the Philippines agreed to avoid the use of force to resolve their contested territorial dispute over the South China Sea, according to a joint statement issued by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The statement published by state news agency Xinhua affirms a commitment by Beijing and Manila to peace, as well as to freedom of navigation and air travel over the South China Sea. The countries agreed that there should be no violence or threats of violence, and that diplomacy will lead to a solution. The Spratly islands in the sea have been a hotspot for tensions between the countries since 2012, and there are frequent reports of clashes between Chinese paramilitary fishing vessels and Philippine fishing boats. China maintains a heavy coast guard presence over several militarised islands and reefs.
Nicaragua: ICJ admits countersuit from Bogota against Managua
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) accepted two countersuits presented by Colombia against Nicaragua, as part of the process of alleged violations of sovereign rights and maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea which has been proceeded at the tribunal since 2013. The court will analyse two Colombian claims that Nicaragua has violated the artisanal fishing rights of the inhabitants of San Andrés Providencia and Santa Catalina Archipelago, and has also issued a decree contrary to international law related to the points and baselines from which it measures its maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea.
North Korea: Satellite images indicate accelerating work on ballistic missile submarine
Satellite images taken in November indicate North Korea is pursuing an "aggressive schedule" to build its first ballistic missile submarine, according to the US-based 38 North group, which monitors North Korea. The images of the Sinpo South Shipyard appear to show submarine parts moving in and out of the facility, including two cylindrical parts believed to be part of a hull for a ROMEO-class attack submarine. The revelation comes amid escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula since September after multiple nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang.
Sri Lanka: Authorities seize 150 kg of cannabis in northern sea
The Northern Naval Command and Sri Lanka Coast Guard found 153.1 kg of Kerala cannabis floating in the sea north of Point Pedro, local media reported. The contraband was reportedly contained in 60 packets, and authorities suspect the consignment was dumped at sea with the intention of smuggling it into the country later, the Colombo Page reported. An investigation is underway and no arrests have been made so far. Sri Lanka is transit point for narcotics from South Asian countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the Middle East and elsewhere.
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