Maritime Snapshot Week 4

Gulf of Guinea
24 January: Vessel attack 35nm south of Brass An underway product tanker was reportedly attacked by a single skiff with between 5 and 7 armed pirates onboard, roughly 35nm SSW of Brass, Nigeria. The general alarm was raised, non-essential crew mustered in the citadel and the vessel conducted evasive manoeuvres. The pirates fired upon the vessel; however, vessel hardening measures resulted in pirates moving away. The vessel was reported safe and the incident was reported to Nigerian Navy. 25 January: Second vessel attacked near Brass, Nigeria An exchange of gunshots occurred between a merchant and pirate vessel. The MV applied BMP5 measures and increased the distance from the skiff. The vessel and crew were both reported safe. 25 January: Third vessel attacked 75nm off Brass, Nigeria An underway MV approached by two skiffs at approximately 75nm SSW of Brass, Nigeria. The skiffs which had around 7-8 people onboard, came alongside and attempted to board. The MV increased speed resulting in skiffs turning away. Both the vessel and crew were recorded as safe.
17 January: Ship stores stolen in Puerto Jose Anchorage, Venezuela Unnoticed, robbers boarded an anchored tanker in Puerto Jose Anchorage, Venezuela. They stole ship’s stores and escaped. The theft was noticed by the duty crew during routine rounds.
South East Asia
27 January: Twin bombing at church in Jolo, Philippines, leaves 18 dead The coastal city of Jolo has been put on lockdown following a twin bombing on a church in the city. The attack, which was claimed by ISIS, has raised fears of an increase in separatist violence in the region.
11 January: Israeli Vessel enters Lebanese waters An Israeli vessel is reported to have entered Lebanese waters. Details surrounding the incident are unclear; however, it is understood that there was no confrontation and that the vessel returned to its own national waters shortly after.
A Closer Look at Maritime Security News This Week
“Pirates of the Caribbean” operate in the service of drug trafficking between Venezuela and Trinidad Drug trafficking organisations appear to be building up networks and infrastructure to begin upscaling the illegal transportation of narcotics from Venezuela’s province Sucre to the Caribbean. Indeed, the increase in maritime piracy between Trinidad and Venezuela, most notably robberies and attacks on fishermen, may indeed aide in the upscaling of the illicit trade. The country’s proximity has meant that smuggling has been a way of life for many people for almost 10 years. Venezuela is only separated by 16 kilometres of sea from Trinidad. However, the security issues in Venezuela has resulted in a sharp increase in incidents, with the robbery of fishermen now an almost constant occurrence. From Trinidad and the wider Caribbean, the drug traffickers will then be able to export their produce towards the United States and Europe. Sources consulted by InSight Crime have stated that the issue is a complex one: the so-called “Pirates of the Caribbean” operate at the service of two organizations engaged in international drug trafficking, which are located in Rio Caribe, Arismendi municipality of the state Sucre: the bands of San Juan de Unare and San Juan de las Galdonas. The objective of these modern pirates would be to clear the drug routes east of Venezuela and the way to achieve this is by stealing engines and equipment from fishermen, both from Trinidad and Venezuela, to prevent them from travelling along the maritime strip between two countries. This route can then be made clear, and narcotic traders can transport produce from Colombia, through Venezuela and continue towards the Caribbean islands prior to then heading on to other, more lucrative destinations. Indian Navy conducts two day “Sea Vigil” exercise to monitor coastline 22-23 January The exercise was the largest the country had ever conducted in recent times and saw nearly 150 ships, 40 aircraft and a number of other strategic assets of the navy and Coast Guard take part. The exercise, which comprised of two parts, saw the navy, coast guard, police and Kochi Port all take part. With the main goal being to test the overall security of the coastal regions and their preparedness in thwarting an attack by infiltration through the sea route. Additionally, during the exercise, multi-agency teams also evaluated the security set up implemented by agencies including at fishing harbours, fish landing centres, police control rooms and ports. In the first phase, all stakeholders assessed the robustness of their own organisations. During the second phase, simulated attacks were carried out on vital installations and assets by infiltrating through the sea, in Kerala and Lakshadweep. The security agencies were able to thwart attempts by the opposing force to infiltrate onto the coast. Samoa set to receive new patrol boat Samoa is set to receive a new Australian government-funded patrol boat. The acquisition is important as the vessel is part of a wider strategy to improve security cooperation between the two countries. Australia and Samoa will now continue to enhance security and cooperation across defence, policing and cybersecurity. This strategy is being copied by the Australian government across the region. As a result, the Guardian-class Pacific Patrol Boat program will see 21 vessels being gifted by Australia to 12 Pacific Island nations, as well as Timor Leste, as part of the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. The strategy, highlighted in the Australian government’s 2016 Defence White Paper, of gifting vessels was carried out by the Australian government to Pacific islands between 1987 and 1997. The strategy also includes a long term Australian sustainment, training, infrastructure, and advisory support program and will replace the vessels originally gifted between 1987 and 1997. Myanmar to establish coast guard under civilian control According to Union Minister for Transport and Communications U Thant Sin Maung, the Myanmar government is planning to establish a coast guard under the control of the civilian government, not the military. The coast guard will be set up with the main goal to protect national security and fight drug and arms smuggling, as well as human trafficking. According to the president’s office, the reason for setting up the coast guard as a civilian department was that while the navy has the manpower and equipment required to form a coast guard right away, it would be hard for it to handle certain tasks, such as inspecting commercial ships. Therefore the coast guard will be formed with personnel from various departments including Immigration, Customs and Fire Services.