Solace Global Maritime Security – Monthly Summary Report – March 2018
4 Apr 2018
Monthly report produced by Solace Global Maritime Security, summarising maritime incidents in areas of high risk piracy and other security threats, covering March 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 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
The month of March 2018 saw an increase in potential pirate activity within the High Risk Area as well as continued escalation in the Yemeni civil war, with associated risks spilling into the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
Two suspicious approaches were reported near the Bab-El-Mandeb, both consisting of small numbers of skiffs approaching to within a short distance of merchant vessels before turning away. Ladders may only have been sighted in one event, and no evasive action was reported by vessels. This continued activity highlights the continued vulnerability of merchant shipping transiting the Bab-El-Mandeb, principally due to the restricted waters and limited room to manoeuvre.
A more significant incident was reported in the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, 128nm north-west of the island of Socotra on 31 March. A merchant vessel was approached and fired upon by pirates aboard two skiffs and equipped with ladders between Socotra and Al Mukalla, Yemen. The attackers were forced to abort their attack following the merchant vessel’s armed security team returning fire; the vessel sustained only minor damage from gunfire. It has not been possible to determine whether the attackers were of Yemeni or Somali origin, however it demonstrates that pirate groups continue to operate in the Gulf of Aden and pose a credible threat to civilian vessels transiting the area. Seasonal improvements in weather and sea conditions are likely to facilitate an increase in such activity from April to June 2018.
The civil war in Yemen has continued to escalate throughout the month, with the Saudi-supported government continuing to fight both the Houthi rebels, and other unaffiliated rebel and terror groups. On 26 March, the Houthi rebels launched a coordinated ballistic missile attack against four cities in Saudi Arabia, in commemoration of the start of the civil war. Damage inflicted by the attack was minimal, however it was by far the largest such attack conducted to date, and is likely to lead to a long term escalation in coalition naval activity seeking to limit the import of supplies, including more rockets, into rebel-held territory. Houthi groups remain highly likely to target Saudi or coalition assets in both land and sea domains, however they are unlikely to directly target neutral, or third-party targets.
01 Mar 18 – Suspicious Approach in Bab-el-Mandeb. A merchant vessel was approached by four skiffs which closed to within 0.5nm at 13°05’N 043°05’E. Ladders potentially spotted before the skiffs moved away.
08 Mar 18 – Suspicious Approach in Bab-el-Mandeb. A merchant vessel was approached by three skiffs at 12°32’N 043°27’E, south of Perim Island. Vessel and crew reported safe.
26 Mar 18 – Houthi Rebel Missile Attack on Saudi Cities. Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched seven ballistic missiles against four Saudi cities; Riyadh, Jizan, Najran, and Khamis Mushait. There is conflicting reporting as to whether the missiles were successfully intercepted. At least one person was killed as a result of the attack. Maritime and naval activities in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea are likely to intensify following the attack, particularly seeking to intercept weapon shipments to the Houthi group.
31 Mar 18 – Vessel Fired Upon near Socotra Island. A merchant vessel underway at 13°57’N, 051°43’E was approached and fired upon by the occupants of two skiffs. The embarked security team returned fire against the skiffs, forcing the attackers to move away. The merchant vessel sustained minor damage due to gunfire, and the crew were reported safe. Ladders were sighted aboard the skiffs.
GULF OF GUINEA: SITUATION SUMMARY
Piracy related incidents, and other violent maritime crimes, have continued frequently in the traditional hotspots around the Gulf of Guinea, as well as expanding further west into areas previously less impacted by maritime criminality.
Armed pirate attacks have continued apace along the coastline from Cotonou to the Niger Delta, against civilian shipping both underway and at anchor. More concerningly, the recent trend of kidnap and hijack for ransom has spread west into Ghana’s waters, with a particular focus on smaller fishing vessels rather than larger bulk carriers or tankers.
In a significant departure from previously reported trends, a suspicious approach was reported against a merchant vessel off the coast of Sierra Leone. The exact nature of the incident remains unclear; no weapons were used, and no definite attempts were made to board the vessel. Similar incidents previously reported as suspicious approaches have been later attributed to fishermen seeking to protect their nets; however, it remains impossible to assess the intent of such an approach in real-time. If this was the result of a pirate action group, it remains unclear whether the attempted attack was carried out by a group at significant range from their normal area of operations or marks the first attempt by a new group operating out of Sierra Leone or its neighbours.
Vessels have continued to report a notable number of attempted thefts from at anchor in ports, or whilst berthed at terminals. In Nigerian waters, the target of such robberies is typically the vessel’s cargo or stores, with attackers fleeing upon detection; however, such attacks in Benin are likely to be the prelude to an attempted hijack and kidnap by armed groups. It remains imperative, therefore, that vessels operating throughout the Gulf of Guinea continue to implement effective watches and hardening measures even when within port limits.
01 Mar 18 – Suspicious Approach South-East of Takoradi, Ghana. A cargo vessel underway at 04°31’N 001°21’E was approached by two speedboats, with six and three persons onboard respectively. The cargo vessel increased speed and altered course, causing the speedboats to abort their pursuit.
06 Mar 18 – Tanker Attacked near Bonny Island, Nigeria. A tanker underway at 04°05’N 006°57’E was approached by two speedboats, the occupants of which boarded the tanker with firearms. All crew took refuge in the citadel, no hostages were taken. Pirates departed after damaging navigation and communication equipment. All crew were reported safe.
08 Mar 18 – Suspicious Approach near Takoradi Anchorage, Ghana. A merchant vessel underway at 03°55’N 001°14’E was approached by three speedboats. Weapons and six persons were sighted on one speedboat. Vessel was reported safe.
12 Mar 18 – Speedboats Stolen by Armed Group in Bayelsa. A group of armed men attacked the Ayama area of Bayelsa, Nigeria, potentially killing or injuring up to five people. The group fled before security forces could respond, towing approximately ten stolen speedboats.
14 Mar 18 – Attempted boarding near Bonny, Nigeria. A tanker underway at 03°51’N 006°40’E was attacked by a group of pirates in a speedboat. The tanker’s evasive actions prevented the attackers from boarding. Vessel and crew were reported safe.
16 Mar 18 – Vessel Attack near Bonny, Nigeria. A general cargo ship was attacked whilst underway at position 3°57’0N 006°42’5E at 0800UTC. Armed pirates attacked and boarded the vessel. The alarm was raised and all crew retreated to the citadel. The Nigerian Navy dispatched patrol boats to assist the ship. Naval personnel boarded the ship, however no pirates were found onboard. The crew emerged from the citadel and sailed to safe port under escort by the navy. Vessel was reported safe.
16 Mar 18 – Attempted Attack near Fairway Buoy, Nigeria. A merchant vessel underway at 04°09’N 006°56’E was attacked by a group of pirates in a speedboat. The vessel’s armed security team prevented the attackers from boarding. Vessel and crew were reported safe.
22 Mar 18 – Vessel Attacked near Bonny, Nigeria. A merchant vessel underway at 03°35’N 006°44’E was attacked by a group of pirates aboard two speedboats. Vessel and crew were reported safe.
22 Mar 18 – Fishing Vessels Hijacked south of Lagos, Nigeria. Two fishing vessels were attacked by pirates aboard a speedboat at 06°01’N 003°12’E. Both vessels were hijacked and sailed into Benin waters before being released and sailing to Lagos. Two crew members were kidnapped. Nigerian Naval personnel are investigating the incident.
22 Mar 18 – Vessel Boarded near Cotonou, Benin. An anchored merchant vessel at 06°15’N 002°30’E was boarded by eight pirates armed with firearms and bladed weapons. They ordered the crew to start the vessels main engine. When this failed, they remained aboard for 90 minutes to steal ship’s stores and crew possessions before escaping.
26 Mar 18 – Crew Kidnapped from Fishing Vessel near Anloga, Ghana. A fishing vessel was boarded and hijacked at 05°20’N, 000° 51’E. The vessel was sailed into Togo and Benin waters, before being released on 28 March. Three crew members were kidnapped and remain missing.
27 Mar 18 – Two Fishing Vessels Attacked South of Cotonou. Two fishing vessels reportedly came under attack at 04°10’N 002°19’E.
28 Mar 18 – Tanker Boarded at Lagos Terminal. Duty watchmen spotted two robbers seeking access to the cargo of an oil tanker berthed at 06°30’N, 003°25’E. Upon realising the alarm was raised, the robbers fled empty handed. Two skiffs containing a total of eight people were spotted fleeing the tanker.
29 Mar 18 – Suspicious Approach Reported SW of Freetown, Sierra Leone. A merchant vessel reported an approach by a large fishing vessel at 09°04’N, 014°02’W. The larger vessel was not transmitting on AIS. Two small skiffs departed the fishing vessel and approached the MV at speed. The MV undertook evasive action and both vessel and crew were reported safe.
SOUTH EAST ASIA: SITUATION SUMMARY
Reporting of maritime criminal activity remained within recent trends throughout March 2018, which the majority of reported incidents being robberies, typically targeting vessels at anchor. No robberies during this period were reported as being carried out by armed attackers, and in no instances were crew members reported harmed. Despite the relatively benign nature of reported incidents, seafarers planning to transit the area should be aware that under-reporting remains a critical issue, and thefts or violent attacks are believed to occur far more frequently than reported.
A spate of ethnic unrest in Sri Lanka in early March also had significant potential to disrupt maritime operations. Unrest, provoked by alleged mistreatment by the authorities, let to the imposition of a state of emergency across the country, and a curfew around the city of Kandy. However, violence subsided rapidly and both the curfew and state of emergency were lifted earlier than anticipated.
03 Mar 18 – Vessel boarded in Tanjung Priok, Indonesia. Two robbers were seen aboard the aft deck of a vessel anchored at 06°02’S, 106°53’E. Crew were alerted and the robbers fled empty handed.
06 Mar 18 – State of Emergency Declared in Sri Lanka. A spate of ethnically motivated unrest in Kandy led to the Sri Lankan government imposing a nationwide state of emergency. Initial plans called for troops to be deployed in potential hotspots for a period of up to ten days.
17 Mar 18 – Attempted Boarding in Caofeidian Anchorage, China. Three robbers in a small boat attempted to board an anchored bulk carrier in position 38°51’2N, 118°36’6E at 1640UTC. The crew noticed the robbers and raised the alarm. The robbers aborted the attempt to board and escaped.
24 Mar 18 – Attempted Boarding in Caofeidian, China. Two robbers in a wooden boat attempted to board an anchored bulk carrier via ladder at 38°44’N 118°33’E. Crew members spotted the boarding and raised the alarm, causing the robbers to flee.
27 Mar 18 – Bulk Carrier Boarded in Muara Berau, Indonesia. A bulk carrier at anchor at 00°17’S, 117°42’E was approached by a small boat carrying four robbers. Two robbers boarded the bulk carrier, however they fled immediately upon being discovered by the crew.
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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