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
Over the reporting period of September, no suspicious approaches or attacks were reported by commercial vessels transiting the Indian Ocean High Risk Area. However, wider regional issues have continued to make themselves felt across the region’s maritime environment. The ongoing war in Yemen poses the greatest threat to both maritime security and the shipping industry. As in previous months, a number of incidents were reported in local media of Water-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (WBIED) being intercepted by coalition forces; one of which was reported in the Saudi coastal city of Jazan. On the other hand, naval coalition vessels have also been accused of conducting attacks on local Yemeni fisherman off the coast of Yemen; accusations which have been refuted by the coalition forces. Only last month, the Yemeni government issued a warning to fishermen regarding their activities in the vicinity of warships. The warning was intended to reduce the risk of mistaking fishermen for Houthi rebels seeking to conduct attacks. In fact, small boats filled with explosives have been one of the group’s primary weapons. Although this highlights a general maritime threat, it does not represent the development of an additional threat to the shipping industry.
Recently, a new offensive has been launched by the Saudi, Emirate and Yemeni forces on the Houthi stronghold in Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Hodeidah; it has been reported that some territory has been recaptured from Houthi fighters. Despite this, the Houthi presence is still strong, and reports indicate that militias have forced residents of neighbourhoods close to confrontation lines to evacuate their homes. This is predominantly in the south and east of Hodeidah.
September – Increased small boat activity.Vessels transiting the HRA reported a significant increase in small boat activity. This increase has likely been driven by the end of the monsoon season. The improving sea conditions may permit an increase in criminal use of small boats in the region.
September – Iran to Move Primary Oil Terminal. The Iranian government announced its intent to establish a new oil terminal on the coast of the Oman Sea. This move would place the terminal outside the Straits of Hormuz, reducing Iranian dependence on the strategically contested waterway.
7 Sept 18 – WBIED Seized by Saudi-led Coalition.Yemeni national forces, supported by the Saudi-led international coalition, intercepted a remote-controlled water-borne improvised explosive device in the Red Sea. The device was built into the hull of a speedboat and reached speeds of 35kts. It is highly likely that the Houthi sought to target Saudi/UAE vessels with the device. There were no indications of other Houthi vessels in the vicinity of the device, possibly indicating that this version of WBIED has a longer stand-off range than devices deployed in late 2017 / early 2018, which were generally controlled from a nearby mothership.
11 Sept 18 – US and UK Navies Conduct Countermine Exercises. The exercise will take place off Djibouti with the focus on the key choke point of the Bab el Mandeb strait.
15 Sept 18 – Saudis Destroy Houthi Missiles Fired at Jazan Province. The missile was reported to be targeting Jizan Industrial City, however other reports suggest the target to be the Saudi Aramco oil facility. Houthi missiles are regularly reported to be fired across the border in retaliation to the ongoing airstrikes by coalition forces in Yemen.
18 Sept 18 – 18 Fishermen Killed by Coalition Forces Off Al Khoukha, Yemen. Major media have reported a frigate attacked a fishing boat off the port of Al Khouka, killing all on board. The accusation has been denied by coalition forces. Al Khoukha currently remains under UAE military control.
GULF OF GUINEA
The month of September saw a number of attacks reported in the Gulf of Guinea; one of which resulted in the kidnapping of some crew members. The Swiss-flagged cargo ship MV Glarus was attacked and boarded on 22 September, leading to 12 out of 19 crew members being abducted. According to media reports, the crew members were taken ashore and a search by local and international authorities is underway to locate them. A second investigation was launched to understand the effectiveness of the vessel hardening measures and the reasons why the pirates where able to board despite anti-piracy measures, such as barb wire, being in place. Kidnapping crew for ransom remains a persistent risk in the Gulf of Guinea.
Some vessel boardings were also reported in West Africa, in specifics off the coast of Guinea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Reports of this nature continue to occur with some frequency and vary in their level of violence from physical confrontations with armed criminals, to brief incidents where perpetrators flee after being challenged by the crew. On 25 September, a motor vessel in Pointe-Noire, a port city and oil industry hub in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was boarded, and its property stolen. According to official reports, DRC has never been envisioned as especially fraught with pirates attacks, however in recent years robberies and attacks along sea ports are increasing in numbers. So far, the lack of a viable maritime infrastructure has led to shipping complications. However, increased financial supports from countries such as China could lead to a future development of the maritime trade. Experts suggest that the current security situation, and more investments in the maritime industry, could be an incentive for pirates to move their operations closer to DRC.
The vessel boarded in Conakry, in Guinea, appears to fit within the wider trend of opportunistic efforts to steal stores or crew’s possessions from anchored vessels throughout the region. It is likely that significantly more incidents of this nature occur than are reported, due to the relatively low value of stolen goods compared to the cost of vessel delays. 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.
The two recorded firearms incidents, through September, involving commercial vessels highlight that pirates remain generally unwilling to confront and overcome armed security personnel. In fact, in two separate incidents southwest of Bonny Island, the pirates’ vessels moved away when shots were fired by a local security vessel and by the Nigerian Navy security team. It is reminded that, instances of boarding and crew kidnaps have occurred against vessels where the armed security teams were unavailable to hold attackers at bay. Therefore, evasive manoeuvring and vessel hardening appear to remain somewhat effective, although they are less likely to stop determined attackers. Having said this, it remains imperative that a 24 hour watch is maintained at all times.
5 Sept 18 – Nigerian Navy Deployed New Vessels. The Nigerian Navy inaugurated and deployed 16 new vessels, including coastal patrol boats and high-speed RHIBs. The vessels were immediately deployed to patrol areas around key oil installations in the Niger Delta. The deterrent effect of these vessels in coastal waters may drive thieves and pirates to conduct more ambitious attacks in deep water.
8 Sept 18 – Clash Between Security Forces and Local Armed Group, Bonny River. On routine patrol along the Isaka/Okrika waterways, State Marine Police patrol intercepted and exchanged gunshots with unidentified armed men in a speedboat. According to police, two pirates were killed, and two others arrested. Their weapons and ammunition were also seized.
17 Sept 18 – MV Boarded in Conakry Anchorage, Guinea.The anchored vessel was boarded in location 9°20’48N, 13°34’32W at 03:10UTC. Four armed persons boarded using the anchor chain and departed the vessel after 30 minutes.
20 Sept 18 – MV Approached in Lagos Anchorage, Nigeria. Two boats approached the MV at 2345UTC in position 6°16’51N, 3°13’16E. At 2358UTC, two unauthorised persons were sighted on the main deck. When challenged, they escaped using a rope tied on board. No items were reported stolen.
22 Sept 18 – Bulk Carrier Attacked by Pirates 54nm Southwest of Bonny Island, Nigeria. The vessel was underway on its transit from Lagos to Port Harcourt when it was attacked by pirates in a speedboat at 0450LT in position 3°37’0N, 6°40’0E. The embarked Nigerian Navy security team fired warning shots twice, resulting in the pirates breaking their pursuit of the vessel.
22 Sept 18 – Vessel Attacked 45nm Southwest of Bonny Island, Nigeria. An underway bulk carrier Glarus was attacked by armed pirates at 0505UTC in position 3°45’32N, 6°43’1E. The master raised the alarm, increased speed and carried out anti-piracy measures. After a prolonged chase, pirates boarded the vessel using long ladders. They cut the wire on deck to gain access to the vessel and eventually the bridge. Communications equipment was destroyed and between 12 to 19 crew members were kidnapped. The nationalities of the crew members include Philippines, Slovenia, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia and Bosnia. The Nigerian Navy despatched a patrol boat to assist the vessel. Remaining crew sailed the vessel under naval escort to safe anchorage.
25 Sept 18 – Tanker Attacked by Pirates 100nm Southwest of Bonny Island, Nigeria. Armed pirates in a speedboat attacked the vessel at 1151UTC in position 2°45’55N, 6°39’19E. The speedboat had seven persons on board, and shots were fired at the vessel. A local security vessel arrived and fired warning shots. The speedboat moved away in a southwest direction. Crew and vessel were reported as safe.
25 Sept 18 – MV Boarded in Pointe Noire Anchorage, Congo. The vessel was in position 4°41’0S, 11°45’6E at 0100UTC when it was boarded by two robbers armed with knives. The alarm was raised and ship property was reported stolen.
SOUTH EAST ASIA
Through September, the primary threat to commercial traffic in South East Asia remained theft from vessels. As in previous months, robbery at anchor has accounted for the majority of reported incidents throughout South East Asia, and the attack methodologies have not digressed from established trends. Thieves continue to depend upon stealth to close with, board, and steal from vessels at anchor. Some of the attacks occurred while the vessels where docked in Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sandakan in Malaysia. September has not seen violent robberies. Reports indicate that in most cases, perpetrators fled when hearing the alarm or when detected. However, in one occasion, the chief engineer of an LGP tanker in Singapore Strait, sustained minor injuries after being confronted with the perpetrators when they stole his gold chain.
At the same time, local fishing vessels continue to be vulnerable to boarding by militant groups who seek to kidnap crew members, as was reported in two instances over the course of September. In fact, a fishing vessel was boarded by armed kidnappers off the coast of Borneo. Two crew members were taken, as they were unable to hide in time. Similarly, three fishermen were kidnapped whilst their vessel was docked in Sabah, in Malaysia. According to updated reports, police are investigating whether the perpetrators are part of the Jolo-based Abu Sayyaf group or belong to local criminal gangs from southern Philippines known to extort vessel owners for the release of their crew members. Local media reported three Indonesian hostages, who were kidnapped from their fishing vessel off Sabah state in early 2017, were freed from their militant captors. Their release was aided by another militant group, the Moro National Liberation Front, currently under a peace deal with the Philippine government.
On 14 September, the Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu attended a trilateral meeting with his Malaysian and Filipino counterparts to discuss the maritime security in South-East Asia. Moreover, it has been reported that at the end of September, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) patrol craft arrived in the Philippines to conduct a joint maritime security and anti-piracy training exercise with the Philippine Navy in the seas of Zamboanga Peninsula, Sulu, and Basilan Strait.
Wider regional issues have continued to make themselves felt across the region’s maritime environment. The movement towards further autonomy in the Mindanao area of the Southern Philippines will continue to contribute to the poor regional security environment. Attempts on crew kidnappings are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, however the recent developments underline a positive progress in anti-piracy efforts.
4 Aug 18 – LATE REPORT – Armed Robbery from Tanker near Sarawak. A tanker underway at 03°24’N, 112°54’E was boarded by armed robbers at 2300LT. The attackers stole cash and personal belongings, before fleeing within 20 minutes. No crew were harmed. Perpetrators arrested by police on 17 August.
10 Sept 18 – Container Ship Boarded by Armed Persons in Chittagong Anchorage, Bangladesh. Two robbers armed with knives boarded the anchored Liberia-flagged vessel in position 20°6’6N, 91°46’55E at 16:30UTC. Duty crew noticed the robbers and informed the master, who then raised the alarm. Hearing the alarm the pirates escaped. After a search, it was reported ship’s properties were stolen.
10 Sept 18 – Armed Kidnap near Semporna. A fishing vessel underway at 04°40’N 118°43’E was boarded by armed kidnappers in the early hours, who boarded their vessel from a speedboat. Two crew members were taken, as they were unable to hide in time. Remaining crew saw the kidnappers depart in the direction of Philippine waters.
10 Sept 18 – Tanker Boarded in Tarahan Jetty, Indonesia. Two robbers boarded the Saudi-flagged chemical tanker at position 5°31’43S, 105°20’58E at 19:30UTC. The duty watchman noticed them and raised the alarm. The robbers escaped and no stolen items were reported.
11 Sept 18 – Fishermen Kidnapped off Sabah. Three fishermen were reported kidnapped at 0100LT. The attack occurred whilst their vessel was docked at Pulau Gaya. Local law enforcement are investigating the possibility of Philippine groups being responsible.
11 Sept 18 – Bulk Carrier Boarded in Sandakan Port, Sabah, Malaysia. The incident occurred in position 5°48’5N, 118°4’9E at 20:15UTC. Alert duty crew spotted the robbers and notified the master. The crew made their way forward to the deck to investigate. The robbers escaped in their speed boat and the incident was reported to the local authority.
16 Sept 18 – Suspicious Approach on Underway Tanker, 4nm SW of Balabac Island, Philippines. Two skiffs approached an asphalt tanker whilst it was underway in position 7°45’14N, 117°3’95E at 03:15UTC. The alarm was raised and crew mustered. The persons on board were reported by the master to be wearing masks. Evasive manoeuvres were commenced. After five minutes the skiffs aborted their approach and moved to another vessel in the vicinity. The master informed the other vessel of the approaching skiffs by VHF.
16 Sept 18 – Militants Free Three Indonesian Hostages, Southern Philippines. According to local reports, the men were kidnapped in early 2017 by Abu Sayyaf militants, off Sabah state. The men were freed with the help of the Moro National Liberation Front, a rebel group which has signed a peace deal with the Philippine government in Sulu province.
18 Sept 18 – Vessel Boarded in Sandakan, Malaysia. The Malta-flagged bulk carrier was boarded via the port side anchor chain whilst at berth in position 5°45’45N, 118°4’9E at 2015UTC. Another two accomplices were waiting in a craft nearby. No items were reported stolen.
18 Sept 18 – Underway Tanker Boarded by Robbers, Singapore Straits. The LPG tanker was boarded in position 1°14’87N, 103°57’92E at 2145UTC, Westbound lane of TSS. Three persons were sighted at the stern of the ship. The chief engineer sustained injuries to his face and hands after being confronted with the perpetrators when they stole his gold chain. The alarm was raised and the robbers escaped. The remaining crew were reported safe.
18 Sept 18 – Armed Robbers Board Anchored Bulk Carrier in Muara Berau Anchorage, Indonesia. The armed robbers boarded the vessel twice in three hours at 1915UTC in position 0°14’20S, 117°39’40E. On both occasions, the duty watchman noticed the robbers on the forecastle deck and raised the alarm. The robbers escaped with ships stores. Indonesian Marine Police and Indonesian Navy were informed, and an investigation on board took place.
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.