Solace Global Maritime Security – Monthly Summary Report – May 2018
8 Jun 2018
Monthly report produced by Solace Global Maritime Security, summarising maritime incidents in areas of high risk piracy and other security threats, covering May 2018.
Solace Global Maritime Security compile a monthly report, summarising maritime incidents in areas of high risk piracy and other security threats.
The report is researched and collated by the Solace Global in-house intelligence team. The report covering the month of May looks at the following three areas:
- High Risk Area (Indian Ocean)
- Gulf of Guinea & West Coast of Africa
- South East Asia
High Risk Area: SITUATION SUMMARY
11 May 18 Merchant Vessel Attacked near Eritrea. A bulk carrier reported coming under attack at 14°40’N 041°45’E, off the Eritrean coast. Crew and vessel reported safe, the vessel was reportedly carrying grain to the Yemeni port of Saleef. Vessels seeking entry to Yemen are advised to comply with all instructions from UN or Saudi coalition vessels.
18-19 May 18 Tropical Storm Sagar. Tropical storm Sagar moved west across the Gulf of Aden, causing severe sea conditions, before making landfall near Djibouti and Somalia. The official toll has not been confirmed, at least 40 were killed across Yemen, Somalia, and Djibouti.
24-27 May 18 Cyclone Mekunu. The storm crossed between Socotra and Salalah during 24-27 May. The storm resulted in extreme weather conditions, making landfall at Salalah as a category three storm. Disruption to air travel was widespread, and significant flooding was also reported, severely limiting land travel. At least 50 people were reported missing or killed.
30 May 18 Suspicious Approach near Merca, Somalia. A merchant vessel at 01°38’N, 044°42’E reported an approach by six skiffs carrying an unspecified number of persons onboard. No attempted boarding was reported, and the vessel and crew remain safe.
During May 2018, maritime traffic in the High Risk Area was affected primarily by adverse weather conditions, likely a major factor in the reduced level of suspicious activity reported. Cyclones Sagar and Mekunu both caused significant disruption in the Gulf of Aden and neighbouring countries. Sagar was particularly noteworthy for being the first tropical cyclone to traverse the entire length of the Gulf before making landfall in Somaliland and Djibouti and inflicting significant damage. Mekunu, whilst less significant, made landfall around Salalah as a category three storm, leading so widespread disruption to marine and air traffic. In the longer term, it is likely that the damage caused by Cyclone Sagar will significantly worsen the economic situation in the regions struck, and may spur an increase in piracy as the population seeks to sustain itself by alternate means.
On 11 May, an explosion was reported aboard a Turkish vessel off the Eritrean coast, making for Al Hudaydah, Yemen, with a grain cargo. Following the explosion, the vessel was taken into custody by Saudi forces, and no further communications were received. Statements following the incident were mixed, with initial suggestions that the explosion resulted from a Houthi missile attack, a highly unlikely event considering the range from the Yemeni coast. Later statements from the Saudi coalition did not suggest a cause, simply stating that damage was caused by an internal explosion.
Preliminary reporting also suggested a suspicious approach took place near Merca, south of Mogadishu; a merchant vessel reported an approach by six skiffs. No further details have been made available, and reports did not indicate the number of persons aboard the skiffs, whether weapons were seen, or if any efforts were made to board the MV. Onboard security fired warning shots when the skiffs were within 500m, at which point the skiffs remained in proximity to the vessel before moving away. Whilst the skiffs behaviour was certainly suspicious, the lack of weapons or boarding equipment displayed by the skiffs makes their intent difficult to determine. Illegal fishermen, for example, often aggressively manoeuvre their skiffs to protect their nets, and have previously been reported as firing on merchant shipping.
GULF OF GUINEA: SITUATION SUMMARY
06 May 18 Attempted Boarding near Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Six persons onboard a skiff attempted to board a merchant vessel at 03°37’N, 006° 16’E. Vessel and crew reported safe.
08 May 18 Attempted Boarding near Brass, Nigeria. Six persons onboard a skiff attempted to board a merchant vessel at 03°37’N, 006°16’E. The attackers hooked a ladder over the MV’s sides, but were prevented from boarding by hardening measures and evasive manoeuvres. Vessel and crew safe.
11 May 18 Tug with Stolen Cargo Seized, Bonny, Nigeria. Nigerian naval forces reported the seizure of a 1,000 tonne barge containing stolen diesel fuel. Six suspected thieves were also detained from aboard the tug boat.
19 May 18 Crew Kidnapped near Bonny, Nigeria. An offshore supply vessel was attacked in position 03°54’N 006°42’E, in Okwori field. The attackers destroyed communications equipment and stole crew possessions. Four crew members remain missing, remaining crew unharmed.
19 May 18 Attempted Boarding, Lagos Anchorage. Seven persons sought to board a bulk carrier anchored at 06°26’N 003°23’E, in Lagos Anchorage. Crew members spotted the boarding and raised the alarm. The robbers abandoned their attempted attack.
22 May 18 Attempted Boarding Against Tanker 130 NM South of Lome, Togo. Seven pirates in a skiff attempted to board a drifting tanker at 03°46’N 001°30’E. They aborted their attempt when the alarm was raised. The tanker’s master reported a potential mothership near their location.
25 May 18 Tanker boarded near Lagos, Nigeria. Two men boarded a tanker at 06°18’N 003°20’E. They fled empty handed when the alarm was raised.
26 May 18 Robbery from Ro-Ro Vessel in Lagos, Nigeria. Seven men boarded a Ro-Ro vessel berthed at 06°27’N 003°22’E. The duty crewman was tied up and his radio taken. The robbers then broke into the paint store and escaped with ship’s properties. Crew & vessel reported safe.
ay saw a continuation of thefts from vessels at anchor and a series of attempted boardings adjacent to the Nigerian coast, along with one crew kidnap event, and one attemped attack against a drifting tanker in Togo’s waters. This continues to demonstrate that most likely threat against vessels in the region remains theft at anchor, however more aggressive groups focused on hijack or kidnap continue to operate.
Attempted theft from vessels either adrift or at anchor appears to remain primarily opportunitic; attackers appear to conduct minimal planning and typically flee once challenged. In only one of the reported robbery cases was a crew member restrained, and the use of violence remains limited. In most cases, the theives efforts appear to be directed mostly at crew possessions and man-portable ship’s stores, rather than targetting the vessels’ cargo.
One notable exception within this trend was an incident concerning the theft of an unmanned 1,000 tonne fuel barge. Such significant thefts of fuel oil have not been reported since the Nigerian military’s Operation Crocodile Smile II in 2017, which marked a concerted effort to eliminate the physical infrastructure maintained by criminal groups to permit the bulk theft of oil products. It is possible that the theft of this barge may indicate an effort by such groups to return to form, facilitated by reduced military pressure. Vessel operators should remain alert to the threat of cargo theft, where attackers are likely to be more aggressive toward crew members, willing to take greater risks due to the value of stolen goods.
The kidnap of crew members from a supply vessel in the Okwori oil field demonstrates that at least one pirate group in the vicinity of Bonny Island retains the capability and intent to conduct planned attacks against vessels. The supply vessel was likely targeted due to its low-and-slow nature, and predictable route making it vulnerable to boarding. In this respect, the kidnapping differs from attacks near Cotonou earlier in the year, in which merchant vessels were hijacked from anchor. Reporting suggests that the victims have yet to be released, and it remains likely that the group responsible will seek to launch further attacks.
South East Asia: Situation Summary
05 May 18 Theft at Anchor near Bintan Island, Indonesia. Stores were discovered missing from a tanker anchored at 01°24’N, 104°36’E. The theft was discovered during routine emergency drills.
06 May 18 Attempted Boarding at Chittagong, Bangladesh. Robbers aboard a small wooden boat boarded a bulk carrier at 22°15’N 091°45’E using a rope and hook. The crew raised the alarm and robbers left the vessel empty handed.
06 May 18 Attempted Robbery at Muara Berau, Indonesia. Robbers aboard a small boat boarded a bulk carrier at 00°14’S 117°34’E. The crew raised the alarm and robbers left the vessel empty handed.
15 May 18 Theft at Anchor Reported in Uban, Indonesia. Stores were discovered missing from a product tanker anchored at 01°06’N, 104°11’E. The theft was discovered during routine rounds.
19 May 18 Tanker Boarded near Karimun Kecil, Indonesia. Six men boarded a tanker underway at 01°10’N 103°27’E at the western end of the Singapore Strait. The crew raised the alarm, causing the robbers to flee empty handed.
19 May 18 Theft at Anchor Reported in Merak, Indonesia. Three men carrying knives boarded a merchant vessel anchored at 05°52’S, 106°05’E. A crewmember was threatened, whilst the thieves made away with engine room spares.
The principle maritime threat across South East Asia in May remained the theft of stores or crew possessions whilst at anchor or low speed, with hotspots around the Singapore Strait, Muara Berau, and western Java. In all cases, robbers appear to have used small boats to covertly approach larger vessels before climbing aboard. Violence towards crew members remains relatively rare, with the one reported instance likely due to robbers being surprised by a crew member at close-quarters.
Although it has yet to have a significant impact on seafarers, the Abu Sayyaf Islamist group became significantly more active throughout early May. The group kidnapped a number of police officers and civilians in the southern Philippines, resulting in a major search and rescue operation and several gun battles as Philippine forces sought to rescue the hostages, all of whom were eventually released unharmed. Despite this apparent setback, the group has previously sought to conduct attacks against local fishermen and foreign citizens aboard pleasure craft in order to ransom them and fund its wider operations, and may seek to conduct such attacks in the near future.
SECURITY ADVICEMaritime PiracyHigh
Solace Global remains available to provide the full range of Maritime Security Solutions and Travel Risk Management Solutions. Vessels transiting High-Risk Areas should maintain a heightened level of surveillance and proceed with caution. Vessels should also ensure all BMP4 measures are in place to the fullest extent possible. Solace Global Maritime Security advise, and have implemented, 24-hour anti-piracy watches and provide armed and unarmed vessel protection services. In addition, Solace Global Maritime Security are also able to offer crew training, port and destination risk assessments, stowaway prevention and kidnap response.
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