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Weekly Maritime Security Report 30 January 2019

West Africa

Nigeria: Merchant vessel comes under attack 36 nm off Brass

24 January

A skiff attacked a merchant vessel 35.9 nm off Brass at 2033 hrs local time. Further details of the incident were not disclosed, and it is unclear if the attack was successful.

Nigeria: Pirates attack underway product tanker off the coast of Brass

24 January

A group of five to eight armed pirates attacked an underway product tanker at 1935 hrs local time 35 nm south-southwest of Brass. The pirates opened fire on the tanker, who raised general alarm, mustered non-essential crew and conducted evasive manoeuvres. Hardening measures resulted in pirates abandoning pursuit. There were no reports of casualties from the attack.

Nigeria: Gunmen fire on vessel south of Brass

25 January

Gunmen on board a skiff fired on a merchant vessel approximately 37 nm south of Brass. Five to seven people were on board the skiff. The merchant vessel applied piracy-specific Best Management Practice (BMP5) safety measures and increased distance from the skiff. The vessel and crew were reported safe.

PGI Analysis: Pirate attacks off Nigeria are common and typically occur between 20 and 150 nm off the coast, demonstrating pirates' extensive geographical range of operation. Pirates are often armed and violent and there is precedent for attackers to persist when under attack from armed security teams until they have been injured or killed. The location and timing of the incidents suggest that the attacks may have been perpetrated by the same group.

 

Select Maritime News

 

Algeria: Security forces recover over 300 kg of cocaine on Skikda shores

27 January

Coast guards patrolling a beach recovered 307 kg of cocaine that had washed ashore in northeastern Skikda Province. Local media suggested that the narcotics, which were hidden in backpacks, may have been abandoned by smugglers. Trafficking is common in Algeria, which is a major route for trafficking drugs into Europe, though seizures of this size are rare.

Algeria: Navy rescues 52 migrants off western coast

27 January

The navy rescued 52 migrants off Ghazaouet, western Tlemcen province. The migrants, all nationals from unspecified African countries, were rescued after their Spain-bound vessel broke down at sea amid inclement weather conditions. Algeria has seen an uptick in migrant departures towards Europe as European countries have stepped up anti-trafficking measures in Libya and Tunisia.

Egypt: Heavy fog closes Red Sea ports

22 January

The Red Sea Ports Authority confirmed that the ports of Suez and Zeitiyat had been closed due to heavy fog impairing visibility. The ports are expected to remain closed until 24 January at the latest, dependent on weather conditions improving. Egypt's Red Sea ports have witnessed sustained disruption over the past week due to sandstorms and general poor weather conditions.

Eritrea: Abiy secures funding for railway linking Addis Ababa to Massawa

21 January

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that the Italian government had pledged to fund the first phase of a study for a railway linking Addis Ababa with the Eritrean port of Massawa. Abiy made the announcement during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. The announcement comes amid an uptick in interest in Eritrean ports after a turnaround in relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa in mid-2018, opening the possibility for increased trade flows through Eritrea.

Libya: IED kills fishermen off Benghazi

29 January

A fisherman was killed by an IED when fishing off the western shores of the northeastern city of Benghazi. Blast fishing is common in Libya and leftover IEDs periodically kill or injure fishermen.

Libya: Inclement weather closes eastern oil ports

24 January

Bad weather has forced the closure of eastern oil ports, local media quoted sources as saying. Tankers were reportedly prevented from docking at Sidra and Brega ports. It was not immediately clear whether the closure had affected oil production.

Libya: Sidra oil port reopens

28 January

The Sidra oil port reopened after being closed for five days due to inclement weather, local media quoted an anonymous official as saying. The oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Brega remained closed, but the official said that the closures had not affected oil production as there was sufficient storage capacity.

Madagascar: Authorities seize 3.18 kg of heroin from vessel at Tomasina

23 January

Authorities seized 3.18 kg of heroin from a cargo ship at Toamasina port. Customs reported it was the second drug seizure made at the port this year. The vessel had arrived at the port from Mauritius and the heroin was found under wooden flooring in the vessel. Drug traffickers use Toamasina port as a transhipment point for narcotics coming from Reunion and Mauritius.

Nigeria: Government awards port concession for Warri Old port

23 January

The federal government issued the Terminal B concession at Warri Old Port to Nigerian consortium Ocean & Cargo Terminal Services Limited. The concession is for USD 100.7 mn. The government has pushed for increased privatisation in the port management sector in a bid to increase efficiency and develop ports outside of Lagos.

Russia: Fire on fuel tankers kills at least 20 near Kerch Strait

21 January

A fire on two fuel tankers killed at least 20 sailors near the Kerch Strait, off Crimea. Ten bodies were reportedly found while another ten sailors are reported missing and likely dead, Russian maritime sources reported. The crews of the two boats were composed of Indian and Turkish nationals. The fire reportedly started when one of the tankers was refuelling the other, Le Figaro reported. The incident comes amid heightened tensions in the Kerch Strait between Kiev and Moscow.

Spain: Police seize 430 kg of cocaine at Leixoes port

24 January

Portuguese and Spanish police seized 430 kg of cocaine hidden in crates of bananas from Colombia in a joint operation at the port of Leixoes, Porto. Investigators said that the banana company was being used as a front by Colombian drug trafficking gangs. The tip-off for the seizure came from Spanish police, local media sources reported. Drug traffickers often use refrigerated fruit containers to smuggle drugs into Europe.

Taiwan: US warships pass through Taiwan amid China tensions

24 January

The US Navy sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait in the first such operation this year amid rising tensions between Taipei and Beijing. Taiwan's defence ministry said in a statement the ships moved in a northerly direction and that their voyage was in accordance with regulations. The move comes amid Beijing's attempts to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, with China having stepped up pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence ruling party, took office in 2016. Beijing has regularly sent military aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years.

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