Solace Global Maritime Security – Monthly Maritime Summary Report – October 2018

Solace Global Maritime Security – Monthly Maritime Summary Report – October 2018

REPORT • Nov 2018

Monthly report produced by Solace Global Maritime Security, summarising maritime incidents in areas of high risk piracy and other security threats, covering October 2018.

Key Points

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 August looks at the following three areas:

  • High Risk Area (Indian Ocean)
  • Gulf of Guinea & West Coast of Africa
  • South East Asia

HIGH RISK AREA

There have been several notable incidents in the past month in the Indian Ocean. On 16 October, a vessel was attacked off the coast of Somalia, east of Mogadishu. Onboard Armed Security Team (AST)  returned fire, resulting in the assailants aborting their attack. The incident was the first in the area since February. Further to the north, there were two suspicious approaches in the Bab el Mandeb Strait. In the first instance the crew came within 1 cable, under 200 metres, and in the second instance, onboard ASTs fired flares to ward off the approach.

Following the attack on 16 October, EU NAVFOR commander Rear Adm. Alfonso Perez de Nanclares ordered additional units to the area for an investigation. Spanish maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew over the area to gain as much information on suspected pirate activity as they could. Their patrols found that pirate launches were still active in the area and could be used to launch further attacks on shipping vessels. A suspicious boat identified by the patrol aircraft was later tracked down by the crew of the Spanish Galicia-class LPD ESPS Castilla to a small bay just off the Somali coast. Rear Adm. Perez ordered it to be seized, towed out to sea and destroyed.

To the east, on 10 October, in an LGP Tanker was boarded while at anchor at Deendayal Anchorage near Gujarat, India. The robbers stole ship stores before escaping. Then to the south, on 29 October, at the Nacala Outer Anchorage in Mozambique, a robber tried to board a tanker via its anchor chain. Nothing was reported stolen.

Additionally, between 6 October and 15 October, Cyclone Luban Impacted the north-western Indian Ocean into the Gulf of Aden. The storm passed north-east of Socotra and made landfall in south-east Yemen and southern Oman. The strong winds and high seas impacted maritime shipping in the region.

On 9 October, the Pakistan Navy left the Anti-Piracy Combined Task Force. The decision to leave was made after the US-led operation refused to pay for fuel for the patrolling warships as part of a previous agreement. Participating in the task force is voluntary. By distancing themselves, Pakistan will be able to conduct independent patrols from the Gulf of Oman to the Gulf of Aden. Pakistan’s warming relations with Iran’s military, combined with security agreements with China, may be a growing cause of concern for the United States and her allies in the region.

Numerous media sources reported on 22 October that the British Type 45 Destroyer HMS Dragon was approached by three Iranian Fast Attack Craft from the port side whilst travelling through the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian vessels threatened to get between the destroyer and the trio of British vessels that were being escorted by the warship through the strait. It is understood that HMS Dragon gave five warning blasts from the ship’s horn. The Iranian vessels eventually moved aside without further confrontation. Additionally, during a visit to Oman by British defence secretary, it was announced that Britain would open a joint military base in Duqm.

The conflict in Yemen is continuing and Saudi, Emirate and Yemeni forces continue to pressure the Houthi city and port of Hodeidah. Coalition Forces Intercept Missile Fired Towards Aden, Yemen. Local media reported the target of the attack was believed to be the coalition’s headquarters in the district of Buraigh in Aden. No casualties were reported. Coalition Forces Intercept Rigged Speedboats Targeting Jazan Port, Saudi Arabia. Local media have reported two rigged speedboats were destroyed by naval coalition forces. Houthi militias are attributed with the attempted attack. Houthis also reportedly seized fuel and food cargo that was entering Hodeidah. Regional media reported Houthi forces have prevented ships from unloading cargo, such as fuel and food supplies. Some ships have been held in port for up to 6 months. Aid agencies have called for the UN to push for the release of the cargo and vessels.

DATE MARITIME INCIDENTS IN HIGH RISK AREA AND EAST AFRICA
1 October Coalition Forces Intercept Rigged Speedboats Targeting Jazan Port, Saudi Arabia: Local media have reported two rigged speedboats were destroyed by naval coalition forces. Houthi militias are attributed with the attempted attack.
7 October Houthis Seize Fuel and Food Cargo Entering Hodeidah: Regional media reported Houthi forces have prevented ships from unloading cargo, such as fuel and food supplies. Some ships have been held in port for up to 6 months. Aid agencies have called for the UN to push for the release of the cargo and vessels.
16 October MV attacked off 340nm east of Mogadishu, Somalia. Four pirates in a speedboat approached an underway bulk carrier at 1234 UTC in position 00°49N, 050°53E. The pirates, armed with AK-47s, fired several shots towards the vessel prompting the Master to raise the alarm, contact local authorities and activate the ship security alarm system (SSAS). The crew mustered and armed guards onboard the vessel returned fire, resulting in the pirates aborting the attack and moving out of site. All crew reported safe.
16 October Alain Goma freed after being held by Houthi rebels for four months in Sana’a, Yemen. Intense negotiations between the French Envoy to Yemen and Houthi leaders resulted in the release of the French citizen. Goma had been held since July when his vessel was damaged on a sailing trip forcing him to dock at the Yemeni port of Hodeida which was being occupied by the Houthi rebels. He was later transferred to Sana’a’s main prison. French authorities thanked both Omani and Saudi authorities for their subsequent intervention in negotiations.
28 October Suspected pirate vessel destroyed by International military patrol: Following the 16 October attack, following extensive searches of the area by military aircraft a suspicious boat believed to be used by pirates in the region was identified just off the Somali coast. Rear Adm. Perez ordered it to be seized, towed out to sea and destroyed.
29 October Robbery attempt Nacala Outer Anchorage, Mozambique: During security round, duty crew onboard an anchored tanker noticed a boat tied up to the anchor chain and a robber trying to board the tanker via the anchor chain. Alarm raised and all crew mustered. Hearing the alarm, the robber jumped aborted the attempted boarding and escaped. A search was carried out. Nothing reported stolen.
1 November Suspicious approach in the Bab el Mandeb: A Merchant Vessel in POSN: 13°6’40”N 43°8’30”E (Bab el Mandab) was approached by 3 small boats with 4/5 POB. The closest point of approach on the Merchant Vessel was 1 cable. The crew and vessel reported safe
3 November Second suspicious approach in the Bab el Mandeb: A Merchant Vessel in POSN: 13°4’10”N 43°9’00”E (Bab el Mandeb) was approached by 2 skiffs with 4/5 POB. The 2 skiffs approached to 8 cables at which point AST fired a warning flare, both skiffs then passed astern. One of the skiffs then began a second approach, a further warning flare was fired and this skiff also turned away. Crew and vessel reported safe.

GULF OF GUINEA

There have been several incidents in the Gulf of Guinea over the past month. Including attacks on vessels underway and the boarding of ships at anchor. On 28 October, 11 crewmembers were also seized from a vessel near Onne in the Delta region of Nigeria. The vessel, Pomerenia Sky, managed to escape with the remaining nine crew members onboard. The incident follows a similar kidnapping nearby off Bonny Island, Nigeria in September.

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) have reported that the number of hijackings is at a record low in the Gulf of Guinea; however, the statistics also show that the risk in the region persists. Indeed, statistics show an increasing number of incidents compared with last year; in the first nine months of the year, there have been 156 incidents of piracy compared with 121 for the same period of 2017. Amongst the statistics, there are 13 cases of vessels being fired upon and 32 attempted attacks; as well as, 107 vessels reportedly being boarded and four hijackings earlier in the year.

The boarding of vessels at anchor fit within the wider trend of opportunistic efforts to steal stores or crew’s possessions from vessels throughout the region. It is highly unlikely that this trend will reverse in the short-term. Additionally, many more incidents of this nature, or attempts, occur than are reported; due to the relatively low value of stolen goods compared to the cost of vessel delays. In most cases, the thieves efforts appear to be directed mostly at crew possessions and man-portable ship’s stores, rather than targeting the vessels’ cargo.

Notable robberies have occurred in Sekondi Port, Ghana, which was only discovered after crew reviewed CCTV. Additionally, a robbery was thwarted at Takoradi Anchorage, also in Ghana. In Ponte Noire, the Republic of Congo, armed robbers stole roping; the assailants escaped when the alarm was raised. Possibly the same assailants were involved in an almost identical incident on a different vessel at the same port two days later. A similar incident occurred in Lagos with two robbers escaping after the alarm was raised by the ships watchkeeper.

DATE MARITIME INCIDENTS IN GULF OF GUINEA AND WEST AFRICA
30 September MV Boarded in Takoradi Anchorage, Ghana: Two persons boarded the vessel via the anchor chain at 0402UTC, in position 4°54’10N, 1°41’17W. The crew raised the alarm and the intruders left the vessel. No items were reported stolen. The crew and the vessel were reported safe shortly after the incident.
3 October MV attacked south-east of Port Harcourt: was attacked by an unknown number of speedboats and pirates at approx. 2030 UTC, Thursday 25th October 2018. The exact position of the attack is unknown; however, it is estimated to be 04°21’42N, 007°42’56E. The vessel was reported safe a short while later.
 9 October MV Boarded in Takoradi Anchorage, Ghana. One person was reported to board the anchored vessel at 0315UTC, in position 4°53’0N, 1°45’0W. The person left the vessel after being spotted by the security patrol. No items were reported stolen from the vessel. Crew and vessel were reported as safe.
14 October Vessel boarded at Lagos Anchorage: Two suspected criminals boarded an anchored product tanker at 0045 LT in position 6°17’2N – 3°13’87E in Lagos’ Secure Anchorage Area, Nigeria. The duty watchman was alerted to their presence and quickly raised the alarm and sounded the ships horn, both intruders subsequently disembarked the vessel. The tanker was searched and the incident was reported to local authorities who dispatch a patrol vessel.
20 October Robbery in Pointe Noire Anchorage, Republic of the Congo: Duty crew onboard an anchored landing craft noticed two robbers armed with long knives lowering mooring ropes to their accomplice in a wooden boat. Alarm raised and crew alerted, resulting in the robbers escaping in their boat. Master contacted port control via VHF to request for assistance. Upon checking, several mooring ropes were found missing from the poop deck.
22 October Vessel boarded at Pointe Noire: Suspected criminals boarded an anchored MV at 23.28 LT in position 4°46°46N – 11°47°30E off Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo. The two armed men boarded the vessel via the anchor chain and proceeded to steal ropes before disembarking. Crew and vessel have been reported safe.
27 October MV attacked 60nm from Bonny, Nigeria: At 04.00 LT a distress call was received on the Emergency Broadcast Channel 16 from an MV in position 03°21N 006°30E. The vessel declared that it was being chased by two skiffs before it started moving in a circular motion. The attack has since been confirmed by the Nigerian Navy. It is suspected that 11 members of the crew have been kidnapped, nine further crew members were left on board, unharmed. An investigation by Nigerian authorities is underway.
28 October Robbery in Sekondi Port, Ghana: Unnoticed, a robber managed to board a berthed AHTS and steal ships properties and escape. During routine rounds, the crew noticed the padlock to the deck container damaged and on reviewing the CCTV recording the theft was identified. Incident reported to local Authorities.
28 October Pirates seize 11 crewmembers from the container ship Pomerenia Sky off the coast of Nigeria: The Liberia-flagged vessel was headed for the Nigerian port of Onne on Saturday morning when the attack occurred, reports ship manager Midocean (IOM). Those abducted include eight from Poland, two Filipinos and a Ukrainian. Nine crew members remain on board the vessel and are reportedly unharmed, and the vessel has sailed to safety.
29 October Two MV attacked 102nm of Pointe Noire: Two vessels were reported under attack at 12.50 LT in position 04°47S 010°07E. One MV and its crew are safe however the second MV is reported hijacked. Last position recorded at 14.24 LT at position 04°42S 010°04E. A further report indicates a third vessel was subsequently hijacked but has now been released.
6 November Underway tanker attacked SW of Bonny Island Nigeria: Nine pirates in a speedboat opened fire on a Bermuda-flagged LNG tanker on the vessel which undertook evasive action. Pirates aborted the attack after several attempts. Nigerian Navy dispatched a patrol boat as the tanker was escorted by a security vessel for entry into the port of Bonny.
11 November A MV attacked by eight armed men at the mouth of River Niger: The attack was reportedly unsuccessful.

Like in September, through October and in the first week of November, the primary threat to commercial traffic in South East Asia remained theft from vessels. Ships at anchor continued to be boarded throughout the region. In most cases, the assailants relied on stealth to close in on vessels, then board and steal goods (normally ship stores or cargo) before departing without alerting the crew. One of the notable incidents this month occurred in Campha Anchorage, Vietnam, when a bulk carrier was boarded and had its stores stolen. A bulk carrier was also boarded whilst anchored at Muara Berau Anchorage, Samarinda; the robbers were reportedly armed with bladed weapons and escaped with some of the ship’s stores when the alarm was raised. An offshore drilling rig was also robbed at the end of September; the on-duty security guards were tied up during the incident.

Armed robbers also reportedly boarded a fishing vessel West of Negroes Island in the Philippines. The assailants stole the fishing catch and valuables before escaping. The local authorities were notified following the incident and the Coast Guard has warned all fishing boats in the area to be cautious. Also in the Philippines, a number of robbers on a bamboo boat approached a berthed LPG tanker whilst cargo operations were ongoing. One of the robbers managed to board the ship but was quickly spotted and the alarm raised.

Elsewhere, there have been reports by Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) that the Abu Sayyaf Group is preparing to launch another round of pirate attacks in the waters off Sabah, Malaysia. The Philippine Coast Guard believes that about ten Abu Sayyaf members are planning to conduct kidnappings in and around Eastern Sabah. It is believed that the militants will target business people or crew aboard foreign vessels passing through the area. The intelligence released by the ReCAAP stated that the suspects are using unmarked, blue and white motorised “jungkong” launches of local (Malay) design. It is believed that the militants are heavily armed with rifles and at least one grenade launcher. As a result of this threat, vessels transiting the region are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance when transiting the waters off Eastern Sabah and the Sulu-Celebes Seas; if possible it is advisable to avoid the areas altogether.

Linked to this threat, fighting between the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Philippine military continues near the port Zamboanga. The Philippine Navy has deployed additional security teams in an effort to prevent the “entry of lawless elements”. The fighting is significant due to the importance of Zamboanga for travel to and from the Sulu archipelago; which is the home of the Abu Sayyaf Group. On  30 October, two suspected Abu Sayyaf members were killed in the archipelago following a firefight with Philippine Marines. It is believed that around 40 militant fighters were involved in the engagement.

DATE MARITIME INCIDENTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
25 September MV Boarded in Tanjung Bulat, Johor, Malaysia. Two armed men with swords boarded a mobile offshore drilling rig and robbed two onboard security guards at 1930UTC in position 1°20’2N, 104°14’81E. The two guards were tied up and their personal items and communications equipment stolen. The intruders then departed the rig. The security guards were released by shore-based staff after they failed to radio in.
3 October Fishing Trawler Boarded near Guimaras Island and Negros Occidental, Philippines. The vessel was underway when it was boarded by three armed perpetrators in position 10°19’48N, 122°51E at 2100LT. The men were armed with firearms; two pistols and one M16 rifle. They boarded the fishing trawler from a blue motor banca with “Juvelin” marked on its freeboard. The fishing catch and other valuable materials were stolen from the vessel. The Philippine Coast Guard was informed and two boats were deployed to patrol the area
17 October Anchored Bulk Carrier boarded by criminals at Muara Berau Anchorage, Samarinda. Two armed men boarded an anchored bulk carrier. The duty seaman notified the duty officer after noticing intruders on forecastle deck. The alarm was raised and crew mustered. On investigation, the ship stores were reportedly stolen. The relevant authorities were notified of the incident.  Muara Berau Anchorage, Samarinda, Indonesia.
17 October Robbery during cargo operations at Campha Anchorage, Vietnam: Unnoticed robbers, pretending to be stevedores, boarded an anchored bulk carrier during cargo operations and stole ship’s stores and escaped. The theft was noticed during routine rounds after departure. Incident reported to a local agent.
24 October Robbery at JG Summit Terminal Jetty 1, Batangas, Philippines: Robbers in a small bamboo boat approached a berthed LPG tanker during cargo operation. One robber managed to board the tanker. Duty crew spotted the robber and raised the alarm resulting in the robber escaping. Crew directed flashlights towards the boat as it moved away. A search was carried out and ship’s properties were reported stolen.
31 October Engine spares stolen at Merak Anchorage, Indonesia: Unnoticed, robbers managed to board an anchored crude oil tanker steel engine spare’s and escape. The theft was noticed during routine rounds when the ship’s crew noticed the storeroom door open and engine spares missing.
3 November Liberia flagged container ship boarded at anchor at Tabangao Anchorage area, Batangas Bay, Philippines: The crew of the vessel were unaware of the incident but the Philippine Coast Guard alerted them.

Security Advice

High Maritime Piracy Risk

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 BMP5 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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