Maritime Incidents in weeks 11 and 12
10 March: Attempted robbery in Macapa, Brazil
Two robbers armed with knives boarded an anchored bulk carrier using a rope with a hook in Macapa Anchorage, Brazil. The duty AB on routine rounds spotted the robbers and immediately informed the OOW, who raised the alarm. PA announcement was made and all crew mustered. Seeing the alerted crew, the robbers escaped without stealing anything. The incident was reported to the Port Authorities.
Gulf of Guinea
8 March: Vessel approached near Brass, Nigeria
Underway tanker approached by two skiffs with 4 POB at 1502 UTC around 35nm SSE of Brass, Nigeria. One skiff closed to within 2 cables. Vessel conducted evasive manoeuvres resulting in skiffs moving away.
9 March: additional attack near Brass; possibly same pirates from an earlier attack
Underway OSV attacked by two speedboats at 1550 UTC approximately 21nm SSE of Brass, Nigeria. Speedboats w/ 6 armed POB in each fired upon escorting security vessel. Unconfirmed reports stated several pirates and one security personnel killed. Pirates in the second speedboat reportedly boarded OSV. Vessel and crew are safe at Bonny Anchorage.
Kidnapping in the Gulf of Guinea
9 March: Vessel and escort attacked near Brass, Nigeria
Pirates armed with machine guns in two speedboats approached an underway offshore support vessel at 1115 UTC around 32nm SE of Brass. The captain immediately notified the naval escort security boat which manoeuvred to engage the attackers. One speed boat closed in from the port side of the vessel and crossed the bow, while the other speed boat exchanged fire with the security boat. The alarm raised, the crew also proceeded to the engine room and all power was shut down.
The pirates boarded the vessel with the aid of an elongated ladder. They broke into the accommodation, vandalised the cabins and took crew belongings and vessel properties. The pirates then proceeded to the engine room, kidnapped five men and escaped. The remaining crew sailed the OSV under escort to a safe anchorage. One Nigerian Navy armed guard was reported killed in the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates.
Indian Ocean & HRA
20 March: Well known Somali pirate killed in Mugug region
A well known Somali pirate has reportedly been killed in Golfula district, Mudug region. Ahmed Mohamud (50) used to be a high profile leader in Somali piracy and, according to sources, was assassinated two days ago after leaving Hobyo city heading for the city of Galkayo.
According to eyewitnesses, Mohamud was abducted by unknown gunmen prior to his assassination. It is believed that the former pirate was in the area trying to recruit a new generation of pirates in the region.
A Closer Look at Maritime Security News This Week
Changes to the High Risk Area in the Indian Ocean announced; measure to come into effect 1 May 2019 (map to the right)
The Round Table of international shipping associations, as well as the OCIMF, who represent the global shipping and oil industry have announced that the geographic boundaries of the ‘High Risk Area’ (HRA) for piracy in the Indian Ocean will be reduced starting from 1 May. Additionally, there will be new advice issued to merchant ship operators.
The reduction of the HRA reflects the ongoing containment of the threat from pirate attacks in the region. Despite the reduction, the shipping associations have urged that vigilance and adherence to the 5th edition of the best management practice to deter piracy (BMP5) remains vital to the long term success in the region. The threat of pirate attack off the coast of Somalia, as well as terrorist inspired piracy in the Gulf of Aden, remain possible.
According to officials, the reduction in the HRA has been made whilst taking into account pirate intent, the capability of the navies operating in the region and crucially the merchant shipping industry. Indeed, the decision was only made after extensive consultations with military forces in the region, including Combined Maritime Forces, EUNAVFOR and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which continue to provide vital advice and protection to shipping.
This is the second reduction, after the one to the current limits in 2015, and does not change the advice for vessels travelling through the Gulf of Aden or to/from the Red Sea. The Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA). Additionally, Ships entering the VRA will still be encouraged to register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) and report to the United Kingdom Marine Trade Operations (UKMTO). Despite the reduction, the threat of pirate attacks do continue and shipping companies should continue to maintain full compliance with BMP5. Additionally, the industry associations will adjust the HRA again if the situation warrants it.
Somali troops have withdrawn from villages on outskirts of Mogadishu
Numerous Somali troops have withdrawn from their posts in Mahadaay, Jowar and other villages over unpaid salaries and lack of rations. The withdrawals have allowed Al Shabaab militants to capture the vacated bases and villages; causing them to move within closer range of the capital. Should the withdrawals continue, the outskirt areas of Mogadishu may come into range of mortar fire. This includes the airport and the UN compound.
These gains by militants have been coupled with the African Union’s UN mission withdrawing or looking to withdraw troops from the country. This has left the Somali military the sole line of defence in some areas. Should the lack of pay and rations continue; then the depleted African Union troops may be targeted by Al Shabaab attacks; testing strength and defences in the Mogadishu area. All non-essential foreign staff will likely be evacuated in response to any further deterioration of the security environment. However, no official sources are reporting this at this time.
Should Mogadishu come under siege, or direct attack, the maritime threat in the region will rise significantly: Al Shabaab disruptive actions will impact international trade and fishermen whose livelihoods have been destroyed will likely turn to piracy.
Iranian naval forces are arresting Chinese fishing poachers
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Naval Command have issued an official statement on Chinese fishing vessels who have been violating the terms of the 2011 fisheries agreement between Tehran and Beijing. According to the statement, the Chinese vessels have been “poaching” in the waters of Southern Iran, including in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Several Chinese fishing vessels have reportedly been detained as a result of the poaching and Iran is now considering a ban on foreign vessels in Iranian waters. Along with fishing vessels, a reefer, possibly the KOOSHA 3, was detained with holds full of frozen fish allegedly collected from Chinese fishing vessels.