Gulf of Guinea
13 January: Threat by Nigerian Delta “agitators” on country’s oil wells In a statement, Niger Delta “agitators” have threatened to shut down the country if the Federal Government goes ahead with the “harassment” of the Chief Justice. The coalition of the agitators also warned all those who own oil wells in the coastal area to prepare to leave, while asking all persons from the area working in the President Buhari government to “watch” their back. 16 January: Contact made by pirates over kidnapped sailors The Pirates who kidnapped six crew members after they seized the MSC Mandy in the Gulf of Guinea have contacted the shipowner. All those kidnapped in the attack during the early hours of 2 January are understood to be alive and being held in “acceptable” conditions. Additionally, the Russian and Nigerian authorities have reportedly been searching for the seamen. With the Russian Embassy in Nigeria collaborating with the country’s government to track down the location of the crew.
Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean
11 January: Explosion and fire at oil refinery in Aden A violent explosion and fire have resulted in significant damage to the state oil refinery in Aden. The fire had reportedly ignited in a reservoir tank holding 7000 tonnes of diesel. There have been reports that the explosion may have been a deliberate act of sabotage; however, this remains unconfirmed.
South East Asia
9 January: Malaysian authorities seize drugs following operation The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA)  has foiled an attempt by two fishermen to smuggle 23kg of syabu valued at RM3.4mil out of the country. 10 January: Robbery Ciwandan anchorage, Indonesia During routine rounds, duty crew onboard an anchored cargo vessel noticed the lock to the engine store was broken and ship’s spares missing 12 January: Attempted robbery reported in Cao Fei Dian Large Oil Tank Anchorage, China Two robbers, armed with a steel bar, boarded an anchored bulk carrier at 2030 UTC at the Cao Fei Dian Large Oil Tank Anchorage, China. Duty crew noticed the robbers and raised the alarm. Hearing the alerted crew, the robbers escaped without stealing anything. Incident reported to port authorities. 15 January: Sri Lanka Navy vows to safeguard local fishermen from trespassing Indian trawlers The Sri Lanka Navy has stated that Indian fishermen who illegally poach in the island’s territorial waters have become aggressive and are threatening the livelihood of local fishermen and they will now intervene to protect their national waters; 20 have already been arrested. 15 January: Fishing vessel with foreign crew detained MMEA Sarawak region has detained a locally-owned fishing vessel with a foreign crew for fishing activities which infringed regulations.
A Closer Look at Maritime News This Week
IMB states that piracy rose globally in 2018 due to an increase in attacks in West Africa Pirate attacks rose worldwide in 2018 due to a surge of attacks off West Africa, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB)’s annual report released last week. As a result, the watchdog has called for an increase in international cooperation to halt the spate of hijackings and kidnappings. According to the IMB, there were 201 recorded incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery last year, up from 180 in 2017. Of these, reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 out of the 18 ships that were fired upon as well as the vast majority of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Indeed, in the last quarter of 2018, there was a significant spike in attacks off the coast of West Africa. A wide variety of vessels are being targeted for attack with ships being boarded and hijacked well outside of territorial waters. Crews that are kidnapped are then taken to Nigeria where they are held for ransom; similar to the ongoing Russian sailor’s case. Nigerian waters were by far the most dangerous, with 41 recorded kidnappings in the country’s territorial waters. The Gulf of Guinea has now easily overtaken the Horn of Africa, and the wider Indian Ocean, as Africa’s piracy hotspot. Additionally, the situation does not look like it will improve in the short term, with Nigeria and other countries stating, in some cases, that there is not even a piracy issue. As such, these countries, whose surveillance and maritime defence capabilities are limited, will need to continue bolstering in their own means of intervention. Additionally, a greater emphasis will need to be placed on closer collaboration, with the help of the United States and France; potentially copying the international, Operation Atalanta, counter-piracy operation in the sea off the Horn of Africa. Finally, all vessels transiting the region should have onboard anti-piracy measures in place. Despite the report on the global rise, regional piracy in Asian waters drops Adversely, sea piracy in Asian waters fell to a 12-year low last year according to a regional anti-piracy body. According to the report, there were 76 cases of piracy and armed robbery incidents in the region last year. This is down from 101 cases in 2017 and is the lowest number since the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) began tracking such figures in 2007. Despite this, there remain some areas of concern. Among the incidents reported last year, seven occurred along the Singapore Strait and one along the Straits of Malacca. In 2017, there were eight incidents along the Singapore Strait and one along the Straits of Malacca; indicating little change in this area. Additionally, abduction cases also fell in the region; however, these do remain a concern. With two crew members being abducted from a fishing trawler in the Sulu-Celebes Seas off eastern Sabah last September. Another three crew members were also abducted from a fishing boat in December. Chinese subs in Djibouti “worrying” according to Indian admiral India has described the Chinese Navy’s growing presence in Djibouti as “worrying”. Admiral Sunil Lanba stated that  The Chinese navy has grown at the fastest pace of any navy in the world in the past 200 years by adding a phenomenal 80 ships to their navy in the past five years. The admiral has stated that they are a force and they are here to stay. Since 2008, the Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region has been mostly in the form of an anti-piracy escort force. However, the actual presence of the navy has caused concern for India and other countries. This is especially true since they’ve deployed submarines, which are “the most unlikely platform” to be used in anti-piracy roles. China has, in the past, stated that there is nothing to worry about and that the base is in fact aimed at deterring piracy in the key Middle East shipping lane and to protest China’s ports which are part of President Xi’s Belt-and-Road infrastructure initiative. China has a number of initiatives designed to expand its influence in the region, with the Indian Ocean initiative being called the “String of Pearls” theory. The theory simply refers to the network of Chinese military and commercial facilities and relationships along its sea lines of communication, which extend from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan in the Horn of Africa. The sea lines run through several major maritime choke points such as the Strait of Mandeb, the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Lombok Strait as well as other strategic maritime centres in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Somalia. The trend is being played out elsewhere with Japanese Admiral Kawano stating that Japan and China were in a “state of conflict” in the East China Sea. However, the admiral has stated that the countries are in communication and were looking for a visit of defence ministries.