Solace Global Maritime Security – Monthly Summary Report
2 Mar 2018
Monthly report produced by Solace Global Maritime Security, summarising maritime incidents in areas of high risk piracy and other security threats.
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 January 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
Despite ongoing warfare in Yemen, February has seen limited overspill into the maritime security environment of the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea. The Arab Coalition continues to tightly restrict access to ports under its control, and continues to effectively blockade those held by the Houthi rebels. A report made public by the Israeli security services suggested that the Houthis maintain the capability to significantly disrupt, if not stop, merchant and military shipping through the region, particularly near Al-Hudaydah or the Bab-el-Mandeb. The absence of recent, successful, attacks against Arab Coalition warships suggests that this assessment may not be accurate. It also remains highly unlikely that the rebel group has a reason to attack commercial traffic. The presence of Islamist groups in the country makes it possible that such an attack may be conducted, however there is no evidence that such groups retain the same maritime capabilities as the Houthi.
On 22 February, a merchant vessel was fired upon by armed persons aboard three skiffs. The vessel’s on-board security team returned fire and the attackers aborted their attack. The incident occurred north-west of Mogadishu, approximately 290km from the Somali coast. This attack clearly demonstrates that Somali pirate groups continue to operate in the region and have maintained the ability to operate beyond sight of land. EUNAVFOR responded to this incident, with a helicopter arriving on-station, however they were unsuccessful in intercepting or detaining the attackers. It is probable that this group will endeavour to launch further attacks in the immediate future.
02 Feb 18 – Red Sea ports. Al Hudaidah and Saleef ports were open to humanitarian shipping with UNVIM permissions. Mokha and Balhaf remain closed to all traffic.
18 Feb 18 – Suspicious Approaches near Point B, IRTC. A merchant vessel reported a suspicious approach at 13°59’2N, 51°40’1E near Point B in the Internationally Recognised Transit Corridor. The suspicious skiffs withdrew with no aggressive action reported. Later reporting by UKMTO suggested that the reports were due to increased fishing in the region.
22 Feb 18 – Vessel Fired Upon in Indian Ocean. A merchant vessel was fired upon by three skiffs at 03°02’N, 050°27’E. The vessel’s onboard security team returned fire with warning shots and the skiffs moved away. Vessel reported safe.
GULF OF GUINEA: SITUATION SUMMARY
Following the hijacking of the MV Barrett in January, the Marine Express was hijacked from Cotonou anchorage, Benin, on 01 February, before both the vessel and crew were released unharmed. It is highly likely that the vessel owners met the attacker’s ransom demands.
Two other attempted hijackings were reported in Cotonou, on 17 and 26 February, are highly likely to be the actions of the same pirate group, with similar tactics used in all instances. Vessels were boarded whilst at anchor in or near Cotonou anchorage, the pirates sought to gain access to the crew before they managed to secure themselves in the citadel, with the intent of using the vessels’ crews to sail into open water with the AIS turned off.
During the most recent attack, the pirates exchanged fire with Benin Navy guards aboard the vessel, wounding two, before attempting to hijack the ship. Their efforts were abandoned when told that the vessel was in ballast. Two crew members were kidnapped whilst the pirates escaped, and were released upon reaching the shore. This more brazen and violent incident suggests that the group’s two recent successes have emboldened and encouraged them to conduct higher risk attacks. It is highly likely that further attacks will be conducted in the Cotonou area.
Groups from Nigeria were likely to be responsible for the kidnap of crew members from a Chinese fishing vessel near Idenao, Cameroon. Reporting concerning that incident is limited, however there appears to have been no effort to hijack the vessel or abduct the whole crew.
A large number of unsuccessful attacks and suspicious approaches were reported in the Gulf of Guinea, south of Bonny Island, highly likely to have been conducted by groups originating in the Niger Delta. The recent successes of the Cotonou hijackings, combined with the Nigerian military’s disruption of their illicit oil infrastructure is likely to be the driver behind the increase in attempted attacks. Despite the lack of success in this area through February, attacks are highly likely to persist, with an escalation in the attacker’s use of force likely.
01 – 06 Feb 18 – Vessel hijacked, Cotonou, Benin. Communications were lost with a product tanker carrying 13,500t of gasoline and 22 crew members. Last reported location 06°15’57N, 02°30’30E. The tanker, Marine Express, and its crew were released unharmed on 06 February 2018.
02 Feb 18 – Stores Stolen from Takoradi Anchorage, Ghana. Two men boarded a supply ship from a small boat at 04°54’04N, 01°43’01. When spotted, they fled with a number of heavy-duty batteries.
07 Feb 18 – Suspicious approach reported in Gulf of Guinea. A skiff approached at speed with a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Guinea at 03°28’0N, 06°56’0E, closing to within 1nm before changing course. Vessel security team was stood-to.
09 Feb 18 – Vessel attacked south of Brass. A merchant vessel reported coming under attack near 03°43’0N, 06°45’0E. The vessel took evasive action and escaped the attackers. Further details remain unclear.
09 Feb 18 – Crew kidnapped from vessel south-west of Idenao, Cameroon. A Chinese-flagged fishing vessel was attacked by armed men at 04°06’00N, 08°51’00E. The attackers kidnapped three crewmembers and escaped.
13 Feb 18 – Theft of Stores from Vessel in Ango-Ango, DR Congo. One robber boarded a vessel at 05°50’06N, 13°26’06E. The thief escaped with rope, a buoy, and a hand-held radio once the alarm was raised.
15 Feb 18 – Vessel Fired Upon South of Bonny Island. Two speedboats carrying eight armed persons attacked a merchant vessel at 03°43’N, 07°06’E. The vessel took evasive action and an escort vessel exchanged fire with the attackers, forcing them to withdraw.
17 Feb 18 – Vessel Attacked on Cotonou Anchorage. A vessel was boarded by three armed men at 03°43N, 07°06E, Cotonou anchorage, Benin. The crew withdrew to the citadel. Navy patrol vessels investigated and confirmed the vessel was clear. Some damage due to gunfire was reported to the ship’s office and ship’s properties.
18 Feb 18 – Attempted Boarding South of Brass. A tanker underway at 04°03’N 006°41’E came under attack at 2118UTC. Crew deployed anti-piracy measures, and the boarding attempts failed. Nigerian naval vessels responded, however the attackers fled before they arrived.
19 Feb 18 – Vessel Attacked South of Brass, Nigeria. A merchant vessel came under attack at 04°020’N 06°46’E, approximately 20nm south of Brass. Vessel and crew reported safe.
19 Feb 18 – Tanker Fired Upon South East of Brass. A tanker underway at 04°02’66”N, 006°34’33”E was approached by six armed men aboard a black speedboat. The attackers made seven attempts to board the vessel using a ladder, but were prevented by the tanker’s evasive actions. The attackers then fired upon the MV before moving away. Crew and vessel safe.
20 Feb 18 – Vessel Boarded off Lagos. A merchant vessel was boarded by six men at 06°17’N, 003°14’E. They fled empty handed when the alarm was raised.
22 Feb 18 – Vessel Attacked South East of Brass. A merchant vessel underway at 03°30’N, 006°31’E reported that it came under attack. No further details were reported.
24 Feb 18 – Attempted Boarding 50nm South of Brass. A vessel underway at 03°33’08”N, 003°02’07”E was approached by eight armed men in a speedboat, who attempted to board the vessel. The vessel’s evasive actions and hardening measures prevented them from boarding.
24 Feb 18 – Vessel Fired Upon 40nm South of Bonny Island. Approximately ten armed men in a speedboat pursued and fired upon a refrigerated cargo vessel at 03°38’01”N, 006°42’00”E. Armed guards on the vessel returned fire and the attackers withdrew. Minor damage was inflicted upon the vessel.
26 Feb 18 – Security Wounded in Attempted Hijack in Cotonou Anchorage. At 2330hrs five armed men boarded a tanker in Cotonou anchorage. Upon boarding, they opened fire, wounding two Navy guards and made for the bridge. All crew except officer of the watch (OOW) withdrew to the citadel. Upon capturing the OOW, pirates demanded the Master come to the bridge and raise anchor. Upon discovering the vessel only held ballast, they stole property and escaped with the Master and one engineer. Both hostages were released once the pirates safely reached the shore. Both wounded guards were evacuated.
SOUTH EAST ASIA: SITUATION SUMMARY
Reporting from South-East Asia for February 2018 remained limited; the most significant incident was the attempted hijacking of a vessel near Sibago Island by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants. The vessel’s crew were reported to have fought off the boarding attempts by pouring boiling water and oil on the attackers. Since Abu Sayyaf’s military defeat in the Marawi siege in 2017, the group’s activity has been significantly reduced. It is a realistic probability that this attack marks an effort by the group to return to hijack and kidnap for ransom attacks in order to fund its ideological objectives and rebuild lost capabilities. Further attacks are likely in the Sulu and Celebes Seas
Reporting of theft from vessels and other maritime petty crime has been minimal through the reporting period. However, it is highly unlikely that the threat posed by this type of criminal activity has significantly reduced, under-reporting of such crimes is a widespread issue throughout the region. Vessels should continue to exercise caution and maintain watches, particularly when at anchor or when transiting bottlenecks such as the Singapore Straits, particularly if operating at a reduced speed.
09 Feb 18 – Attempted boarding in Kolkata, India. A duty crewman spotted a three people attempting to climb the anchor chain of a bulk carrier at 22°11’56N, 88°09’59. Upon being spotted, the robbers aborted their attempt to board and fled.
11 Feb 18 – Attempted boarding in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Five men, armed with knives, attempted to board a bulk carrier at 22°07’70N, 91°43’41. The crew spotted the attackers and readied fire hoses. The attackers escaped empty handed.
16 Feb 18 – Merchant Vessel Attacked near Sibago Island. Armed men on three speedboats attempted to board a merchant vessel at 6°42’02”N, 122°26’33”E. Crew members reportedly used heated water and oil to repel the attackers as they sought to board. Coastguard vessels then forced the attackers to flee. Two crew suffered minor injuries. The attackers were believed to be members of Abu Sayyaf, a regional Islamist insurgency. The group has previously used kidnap for ransom to fund its operations.
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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