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Weekly Maritime Security Report 29 August 2018

Yemen: Coalition foils Houthi speedboat attack in Red Sea

23 August

The Saudi-led coalition announced it had thwarted a planned Houthi attack involving the use of explosives-laden speedboats against commercial vessels. The target and further details of the attack were not disclosed but the speedboat was reportedly launched from the Houthi-controlled Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

PGI Analysis: The purported attack comes after Houthi forces used projectiles to attack two Saudi-oil tankers in the Red Sea, one of which suffered minor damage. In May, the Saudi-led coalition reported foiling a similar attack by remote-controlled speedboats loaded with explosives targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea, including an oil tanker, underscoring the threat to maritime traffic off Yemen.

Malaysia: Authorities rescue kidnapped fishermen from Thai pirates

20 August

Thai authorities announced that they had rescued the last four of a group of 11 Malaysian fishermen kidnapped by a group of armed men off the coast of Pulau Langgun, an island located near the border between Malaysia and Thailand. The fishermen were robbed and captured on 19 August. Malaysia's Marine Operations Force rescued seven of the fishermen later the same day. Four of the kidnappers are in police custody.

PGI Analysis: The incident marks the first report of fishermen being abducted in the region and unconfirmed sources reported that pirates had sought to swap the fishermen for four of their accomplices detained by maritime police. Police have raised concerns criminals could look to target tourist boats and yachts in the area. The Langkawi Tourism Organisation has called for security to be stepped up in the region and said it had received reports of assailants stealing speedboats in the area.

Togo: Update: Missing tanker docks in Lomé, crew reported safe

23 August

Panama-flagged chemical tanker MT Pantelena, which went missing on 19 August off the coast of Libreville, has docked at Lomé port. Reports indicate that all 19 crew on board were safe. The ship's operator, Lotus Shipping, did not provide additional details on the reasons for the disappearance or on the ship's cargo. The crew were reportedly locked in a cabin for nine days, but were given food and water and were not physically harmed.

PGI Analysis: Kidnap-at-sea gangs operate in the Gulf of Guinea and have hijacked tankers and merchant vessels in recent years, predominantly with the aim of obtaining ransom for crew members. It remains unclear whether ransom was paid to secure the crew's release, although it is likely that this was the case.

Select Maritime News

Egypt: Authorities arrest two on smuggling charges at Port Said

22 August

Authorities from the Port Said Security Directorate detained two Egyptian nationals on charges of smuggling foreign-manufactured goods through the port. One of those detained was a local import-export businessman while the other was a driver set to collect the goods, which consisted of 1,000 kg of clothes. The two had failed to pay the required customs duties on the shipment.

Iran: IRGC reports full control over Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz

27 August

The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' naval division, General Alireza Tangsiri, said Iran now has full control over the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, according to local private news agency Tasnim. Tehran has previously threatened to block the strait, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile action against Tehran by the US. The announcement comes ahead of the re-imposition of US sanctions targeting Iran's oil and gas industry on 5 November.

Italy: Authorities disembark 150 migrants, interior minister under investigation

25 August

Port authorities allowed 150 migrants to disembark from a ship which had been docked for five days at the Port of Catania over the government's refusal to let the migrants enter Italy. Interior minister Matteo Salvini had refused to let the migrants enter until other EU countries agreed to take some in. Ireland, Albania and the Vatican reportedly accepted to house the migrants. In response to the incident, a prosecutor in Sicily filed kidnapping, abuse of power and illegal arrest charges against Salvini.

Turkey: Authorities detain 98 irregular migrants in Canakkale, Kirklareli provinces

22 August

Authorities detained 98 irregular migrants in two separate incidents in Canakkale and Kirklareli provinces, western Turkey. Officials rounded up 70 migrants on two inflatable boats off Ayavacik district, Canakkale province, heading to the Greek island Lesbos. In Kirklareli province, security sources told local media 28 irregular migrants had been detained by authorities. Media sources reported the majority of the 98 migrants held were of Afghan origin.

Ukraine: Moscow reportedly blocks Kerch Strait to Ukraine

21 August

Russian authorities have reportedly blocked the Kerch Strait to Ukraine, preventing boats from reaching Ukrainian ports, social media sources reported. Moscow reportedly imposed the blockade on 14 August, the same sources reported. The information was not confirmed by official sources although the news comes two weeks after the EU imposed sanctions on Russian companies involved in the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge linking Russia to Crimea.

United States: Authorities seize 45 kg of cocaine at Delaware port

22 August

Police disclosed that drug-sniffing dogs discovered 45 kg of cocaine hidden in a shipment of pineapples intended for New Jersey at Delaware's Port of Wilmington. The pineapples reportedly originated from Costa Rica. Authorities did not disclose whether they made arrests following the discovery. The police previously seized thousands of Adderall and Xanax pills at the port in 2018.

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