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Solace Global Maritime Summary – February 2019

14 Mar 2019

Monthly report produced by Solace Global Maritime Security, summarising maritime incidents in areas of high risk piracy and other security threats, covering February and the first week of March 2019.

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 1 February – 9 March looks at the following areas:

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

Indian Ocean and High Risk Area

The Indian Ocean continues to enjoy a relatively peaceful period. There were two reported suspicious approaches in the Gulf of Aden. However, these did not amount to any direct attacks. The main story in the region is the continued development over last year’s decision to allow Chinese fishing vessels to fish in Somali waters. Locals are concerned that the arrival of foreign fishing vessels will lead to continued depletion of the local fish stocks.

The deal allows Chinese registered vessels to fish 24 nautical miles from Somalia’s coast; however, local fishing communities worry that the African country’s government is unable to ensure that the Chinese vessels will respect the boundaries. Somali fishing communities have also expressed concerns that a “debt trap diplomacy”-linked deal between their government and China has granted Beijing a license to exploit their livelihoods legally. The contract has been termed as one-sided (in favour of Beijing) by a Somali lawmaker representing the coastal regions.

Indeed, a competition between foreign and domestic fishing over declining resources in the area vastly increases the likelihood of conflict between the fleets. These clashes have a high likelihood to proliferate into violence given both the wide availability of weapons in the region and the vitality of fishing to support the local communities. There is also a significant concern that the Chinese vessels will overfish. The Somali authorities have struggled to contend with illegal fishing in communities in recent years and will have no authority, or ability, to vet the Chinese vessels’ catch for overfishing.

One of the main causes of piracy in the region was the lack of opportunity for fishermen in small fishing communities. This depletion of the fish stocks, through both overfishing and illegal fishing, resulted in locals using the widely available firearms to target merchant vessels transiting the western Indian Ocean. By allowing Chinese vessels the right to fish in these depleted waters, not only is there a likelihood of conflict between domestic and foreign fishermen, but there is also a significantly increased opportunity for a resurgence in piracy.

However, China has reportedly promised to rebuild a seaport in Mogadishu using money that Beijing loaned to Somalia in exchange for the fishing rights. The rehabilitation of the port has the opportunity to give the Somali economy a major boost. Adversely, the “debt-trap” policy that China follows has been strongly condemned by America and other countries. It both undermines the borrowers’ sovereignty but also allows China a significant foothold in the target’s country. Mogadishu is highly likely to therefore to become part of China’s “Ring of Pearls” policy.

Elsewhere in the region, the tensions between Indian and Pakistan should be monitored by the maritime community. Should the conflict escalate we could see increased naval activity around the two countries’ national waters. On 5 March, Pakistan announced that it had thwarted an attempt by an Indian submarine to enter the country’s national waters. Indian- and Pakistani-flagged or owned vessels should employ additional caution if operating in the other country’s waters; as there is a risk of vessels being impounded.

Additionally, a fire onboard a Greek tanker being scheduled for demolition cost two workers their lives and injured a third on 18 February. The incident occurred in the Shagorika Ship Breaking Yard, Chittagong, Bangladesh. The demolition yard and those like it in south-east Asia are common places for companies to send their outdated vessels. However, working conditions can be poor. As of 1 January 2019, all vessels under an EU flag will need to use EU-approved ship recycling facilities.

In the Indian Ocean on 20 February, two crew members were killed and another six remain missing after the chief officer onboard the vessel attacked crewmembers with a knife aboard a Taiwanese-registered fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean. The vessel, a Longline fishing boat the Weng Peng, was approximately 1,540 nautical miles from the Mauritius capital of Port Louis when the incident occurred.

According to the vessels captain, a dispute had escalated into a fight on board. Numerous members of the crew had been having difficulty getting along with one another prior to the incident. During the dispute, a number of the vessels crew were forced to jump overboard to escape while some crew members also barricaded themselves in parts of the ship. Following the latest report, the Chief Officer remained free, and unstable, threatening anyone who approached the bridge of the vessel.

Other Taiwanese and friendly fishing vessels in the area were notified and came to the ship’s aid. Nearby countries were contacted by the Taiwanese foreign ministry and dispatched rescue vessels. This is the second incident to impact a Taiwanese vessel in as many weeks with a fire onboard another fishing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean near the Falkland Islands killing five crewmembers.

Elsewhere the Master, Chief Officer and AB were all killed in what is being described as a “tragic accident” onboard the bulk carrier Bahri Bulk in port in Saudi Arabia. An AB entered closed hold and collapsed. Master and Chief Officer rushed to assist him, and also collapsed. All three were taken to hospital, but died while in intensive care. The incident is being investigated.

3 FebruaryChief officer on routine rounds onboard Singapore-flagged product tanker berthed Oil Jetty No4, Kandla Port, India noticed a boat under the forecastle and notified the other deck crew. Seeing the alerted crew, the boat moved away. On inspection, it was noticed that a storeroom had been broken into but nothing reported stolen. Port authorities notified.  
4 FebruaryThe Master of the STI Guard, a Marshall Islands-flagged Crude Oil Tanker owned by Scorpio Tankers, was injured following an altercation with a crewmember. The incident took place while the vessel was transiting through the Indian Ocean, some 300 nautical miles southwest of Reunion. The Master of the vessel was reportedly in a critical condition and required consultation with medical advisors in Toulouse, France. Following the advice given, the vessel altered course and a helicopter from Reunion island delivered a medical team onboard the vessel prior to evacuating the captain. The attacker has been restrained and, as the attack occurred in international waters, will be judged under Marshall Island law.  
11 FebruaryWhilst en-route to Mombasa, Kenya, master of Singapore-flagged container ship noticed, via the radar, a suspicious vessel without AIS on vessel’s port bow at approximately 145nm from Mahe, Seychelles. The master monitored the suspicious vessel, although it did not appear to show any signs to attempt to come near the ship. This was followed by the vessel changing course and approaching the container ship’s route. The master immediately increased speed, adjusted course and closely monitored the suspicious vessel. A general alarm was sounded and all crew were notified. The crew closed all access to the accommodation, started fire pump and activated an anti-piracy watch. The suspicious vessel subsequently stopped its pursuit. It is believed that the suspicious vessel was a mother vessel as there was also a sighting of a small boat nearby. A second suspicious vessel was sighted on starboard bow later that day; however, nothing further has been reported.  
20 FebruaryAt least one person was killed and another injured following a knife attack onboard a Taiwanese fishing vessel in the Indian Ocean. See below for more information.  
24 FebruaryIn the morning of 24 February, two skiffs were reported to have approached a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden the skiffs closed to within 200 metres. No further details have been released at the time of writing. Vessels transiting the area are advised to continue employing additional levels of caution.  
26 FebruaryAn underway yacht was approached by one skiff at around 109nm SW of Al Mukalla, Yemen, in the Gulf of Aden. The skiff was reported to have a ladder onboard and closed to within 1nm of the vessel.

Gulf of Guinea

The piracy risk level for the Gulf of Guinea remains at Severe following an increase last month. As the map above demonstrates, the region has suffered a multitude of attacks in the last month. The majority of these attacks have occurred in, or near, Nigerian waters; however, attacks have also occurred in Togo waters and elsewhere. Vessel security should not be taken lightly if entering the region.

Media sources have reported that the Nigerian Navy has intercepted 130 vessels for crimes perpetrated in the maritime sector and other activities from January 2018 to February 2019. The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, said the arrests were made following the recent enhancement of the navy’s surveillance capability. Ibas also said that the Navy has 150 persons in custody in connection with maritime crimes. The navy also destroyed 637 illegal refineries in the Niger Delta This news comes as the Nigerian Navy completed a recruitment drive on 4 March.

On 1 February, the local authorities arrested 11 Russian sailors after seizing nearly 10 tons of cocaine aboard. The ship which was bound for Morocco was flying the flag of Panama. It called at the port of Praia as a member of the crew had died. The sailors are being held for suspected drug trafficking.

In a positive story, on 1 March, the three kidnapped crewmembers from an attack on 3 February are reported to have been released safely. The news was released by their vessel’s owners. However, further details remain unclear. This news has been tampered by a further kidnapping on 3 March near Lome, Togo. These incidents, and the exceptionally high number of attacks demonstrate the vital need for onboard vessel security if operating in the region. Solace Global strongly advises all companies operating in the region ensure that they have taken adequate measures to protest their vessels.

3 FebruaryAround 300nm SW of Bayelsa, Nigeria five armed pirates attacked and boarded a landing craft underway, kidnapped three crew members and escaped. Incident reported to the Nigerian Navy who dispatched a naval boat to assist the vessel. The remaining crew sailed the vessel under naval escort to a safe anchorage. On 01/03/2019, received confirmation from the owners that the three kidnapped crew members were released safely.  
4 FebruaryThe M/T Barents Sea, a Singapore-flagged Aframax tanker, has been seized by private militiamen off the waters of Cameroon. According to Eastern Pacific Shipping, the vessel was seized by men wielding AK-47s while performing standard discharge operations. The vessel had been anchored off the coast of Cameroon from mid-December due to a financial dispute.  
4 FebruaryTwo robbers in a canoe approached and boarded Singapore-flagged tanker in Lagos Security Anchorage, Nigeria. The vessel was conducting ship-to-ship (STS) operation with another tanker at the time. Embarked security patrol personnel at the forward part of the cargo deck sighted the robbers. The general alarm was raised and the robbers escaped.  
9 FebruaryDuty crew onboard a berthed product tanker in Port of Monrovia, Liberia noticed a robber armed with a knife. The alarm was sounded, resulting in the robber escaping. On searching the vessel, ship’s stores were reported stolen.  
21 FebruaryAn underway merchant vessel was approached by a speedboat approximately 80nm SW of Brass, Nigeria. Speedboat approached from the port quarter, occupants attempted to board unsuccessfully due to evasive manoeuvring. A second attempt was made on the starboard beam with shots fired towards vessel bridge; again, they were unsuccessful. No crew were injured.  
21 FebruaryA Nigerian flagged vessel was reportedly attacked and boarded near Bonny Island, Nigeria. While the ship sustained some damage, the crew are understood to be safe. A Nigerian Navy vessel was dispatched to the area to escort the ship to safety. The pirates are understood to have escaped.  
27 FebruaryUnnoticed robbers boarded an anchored tanker in Aboadze Anchorage, Ghana. They stole ship’s stores and escaped. The incident was reported to the local authorities.
27 FebruaryThree incidents occurred south of Brass in the space of 24 hours. First, a vessel reported being fired upon by pirates 69 nm south of Brass. A security vessel responded to the incident. Then, an underway MV attacked at around 60nm south of Brass, Nigeria. Pirates are understood to have boarded the vessel but were unsuccessful in taking control and later disembarked. Vessel and crew have since been reported safe. Finally, a product tanker was reportedly approached  
28 FebruaryAn underway MV was attacked around 30 NM south of Bonny Island, Nigeria. The attack was reportedly unsuccessful, and the vessel and crew were reported safe.  
2 MarchAn underway Greek-flagged tanker MV was attacked around 110nm South of Lagos, Nigeria. The vessel and crew were later reported safe.  
3 MarchPirates are understood to have attacked a vessel 30nm south of Lome, Togo. The Malta-flagged vessel was later reported to be en-route to Lome under escort. Extreme caution was and still is, being advised in the area. At least three crewmembers are reported to have been kidnapped. The ship sustained damages during the attack and hijack, and was now in need of some repairs. It is understood that the remaining crew onboard are not injured.  
8 MarchAn underway tanker was approached by two skiffs with four people on board 35nm SSE of Brass, Nigeria.  One skiff closed to within 2 cables. Vessel conducted evasive manoeuvres resulting in skiffs moving away.  
9 MarchUnderway OSV was attacked by two speedboats around 21nm SSE of Brass, Nigeria. Speedboats w/ six armed POB in each fired upon escorting security vessel. An unconfirmed report states several pirates and one security personnel killed.

South East Asia

There were further robberies in the south-east Asia region in February; continuing the trend in the region. The other major incidents in the region include a large fire impacted the port of Muara Baru. Despite these incidents, the region has enjoyed a quiet February; with limited instances of piracy. This is aided by the Philippines army, who continue to clash with Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines. Numerous members have surrendered or been killed in combat.

Indeed, linked to the ongoing clashes, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has urged the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia to band together with his country to combat piracy in the region. The call to action, which was made during a speech on 19 February commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Association of Southeast Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), was made in reaction to a number of pirate attacks in the Philippines and the surrounding region the last few years.

The Abu Sayyaf jihadist group is the main driver of piracy in the region with numerous instances occurring in 2018. The complex maritime borders in the region allow the group to evade local navies. Duterte also went on to express his dissatisfaction with the lack of justice for victims of piracy. He stated that his navy has orders to “blast them off the earth”. He also stated that until the lack of a unified anti-piracy policy is rectified, the group will be able to continue exploiting gaps in the naval capabilities of the countries in the region. As such, further attacks cannot be ruled out.

Elsewhere, the Chinese authorities closed parts of the Yellow Sea from 3 until 6 March while the as-yet-unnamed aircraft carrier (Type 001a) and the carrier Liaoning conducted their first test together. Civilian vessels have had to wait while the military drills were conducted and were only allowed access after the completion of the manoeuvres. There will be a “no-go” zone area in effect, to be used for “military purposes,”

The manoeuvres are a key development for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy The Type 001a is undergoing its final set of sea trials before its highly anticipated commissioning in time for the 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the PLA Navy, and the Liaoning is putting to sea for the first time since August 2018, when the reconstruction of its command centre began.

China is set to hold the international maritime parade in waters off Qingdao, east China’s Shandong province, on 23 April, to mark PLA Navy’s 70th anniversary. The date coincides with the defeat of the Chinese Republic (now located in Taiwan) in the civil war in 1949.

Finally, the BBC have released a report on illegal fishing, with a special mention to the Andrey Dolgov, or STS-50 or Sea Breez 1 as it also sometimes called itself, which had been operating illegally for 10 years until last year. The vessel evaded capture for ten years between 2008 and 2018; normally by changing maritime jurisdictions and using forged documents. However, following an international effort in 2018 by Tanzanian authorities, the Seychelles, Sea Shepard and finally the Indonesian navy the vessel was finally caught by the Indonesian Navy. The BBC report also states that around 20 percent of fishing globally is conducted illegally.

5 FebruaryDuty crew on routine rounds onboard anchored Singapore-flagged tanker in Belawan Anchorage, Indonesia, noticed a robber escaping via the hawse pipe and raised the alarm. Crew mustered and on searching the vessel ships properties reported missing.  
10 FebruaryIn the Caofeidian Anchorage, China, the duty officer onboard an anchored Singapore-flagged bulk carrier noticed from the bridge wing a hose connected to opened tank manhole to a small unlit barge alongside the ship. The alarm was raised, and the crew were instructed to investigate. Hearing the alarm, the duty officer noticed a robber lowering the hose and escaping in the barge.  
23 FebruaryA significant fire impacted the port of Muara Baru, in Jakarta, the afternoon of 23 February. The fire is believed to have originated on the Artamina Jaya which was undergoing maintenance at the time of the incident. In total, 35 vessels were destroyed; despite the prompt arrival of fire and rescue teams. Police have since named a number of suspects who, they claim, neglected safety standards.  
1 MarchAn Ammonia gas leak has killed five Chinese crewmembers in a cargo hold of a reefer that was berthed at a port in north-eastern China. Further details have not been given at this time.  
5 MarchWhilst underway, Malaysia-flagged tugboat and barge, the crew spotted 11 robbers boarding the barge that was being towed by a tug boat from two small crafts in the Straits of Malacca & Singapore. Tugboat and barge carrying scrap iron, bound for Penang, Malaysia. The master reported that 11 robbers had escaped in small crafts with stolen scrap iron. There was no confrontation with the crew.


The Americas has enjoyed a quiet month in terms of incidents. There continues to be a growing threat of piracy in Caribbean waters because of the crisis in Venezuela. However, at this stage, conditions have not developed into those similar to that of the Indian Ocean or the Gulf of Guinea. Currently, those who suffer the most are the inhabitants of Trinidad, with the waters of the Gulf of Paria (between Trinidad and mainland South America) becoming the main target area for pirates.

On the Venezuelan crisis, the US government have been looking on ways to put pressure on Maduro’s government, with governmental analysis suggesting that Cuba is heavily reliant on oil from Venezuela for its overall electricity needs. Should these exports be constrained even by a medium degree, Cuba’s economy would face ruin (according to the analysis). Its ruling government would then, in theory, and according to the US government analysis, turn and apply great pressure to abandon Maduro.

Over the weekend of 2-3 February, a boat smuggling a large group of Haitian migrants sank, killing at least 28 people. The U.S. Embassy in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, said officials managed to rescue 17 people, including two who were found stranded on a sandbank off the coast of the Bahamas on Sunday. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force, which assisted the U.S. Coast Guard in the rescue, said it had apprehended around 300 Haitians over the Christmas period as citizens attempt to flee Haiti.

On 16 February, US-flagged Self Discharging Bulk Carrier, St. Clair, caught on fire. The incident occurred at approximately 20:45 local time, while the vessel was docked at the CSX Torco terminal, located in the port of Toledo, Ohio. The vessel had been docked at the port in order to undergo winter season repairs. There was nobody aboard the ship and the vessel carried no cargo at the time.

Following the 31 January attack on Sea Shepard’s Farley Mowat, the Sea Shepard Conservation Society is looking to raise funds to conduct repairs on its vessels. The M/V Farley Mowat suffered a number of broken windows and a fire on one side following a clash with poachers. However, fortunately, no one was injured in the attack. However, no arrests have been made as of yet.

On 28 February, the Cruise ship Carnival Victory suffered a total power loss while en-route from Cozumel Mexico to Miami, in Yucatan Channel, western Caribbean. The vessel regained power after several hours and increased speed to make up for lost time. Elsewhere, traffic was restricted at Barranquilla port, Colombia, after the bulk carrier Qing Yun Shan was disabled by a mechanical failure in the afternoon 25 February at the port’s entrance. Tugs eventually took the bulk carrier under control and brought her to anchorage.

In a more geopolitical development, the US Navy has announced that the carrier capable F-35C stealth fighter is now ready for combat. According to the announcement, the fighter aircraft has met all requirements and achieved initial operational capability (IOC). As such the first operational squadron is now fully manned, trained and equipped. The marine variant F-35B was declared combat ready in 2015 and has conducted close air support (CAS) missions in Afghanistan in 2018.

The aircraft will also be joined by new frigates, the US Navy has announced that it envisions a new multi-mission Guided Missile Frigate able to sense enemy targets from great distances, fire next-generation precision weaponry, utilize new networking and ISR technologies, operate unmanned systems and succeed against technically advanced enemies in open or “blue” water combat. The Navy hopes to expedite development to and ultimately deploy the new ship in the early to mid-2020s. Service developers seem to be heavily emphasizing sensor networking, weapons integration and targeting technology as it navigates this next phase of development.

N/AThere have been no notable piracy, armed robbery or other maritime incidents in Europe in the past month.

Mediterranean & Black Sea

The Mediterranean has enjoyed a quiet beginning of 2019, migrant rates are down, though the death rates are up. Elsewhere, the Black Sea is also enjoyed a quiet period, despite the build-up to the Ukrainian elections and the possibility of confrontations between Russian and Ukrainian vessels.

Migrant arrivals in the Mediterranean have dropped thus far in 2019, when compared to past years, with 9,286 recorded arrivals since the turn of the year. However, the deaths remain exceptionally high, with 226 recorded migrants losing their lives during the attempt since 1 January 2019. That is roughly a death rate of 2.4 percent. This is a massive increase from 2015 when the death rate was around 0.1 percent. The continued rise in the death rate should be a concern for countries and businesses operating the region and may see an increase in maritime patrols.

Elsewhere, in the Mediterranean, there have been a number of incidents between vessels and a number of individual incidents. The general cargo vessel Navaho’s anchor chain has been entangled with the Bulk Carrier Oxana V’s propeller late on 25 February. The vessels remain entangled in Zeytinburu Anchorage, Istanbul, on 26 February and required aid of local tug.

On 5 February, the Spanish Meteoro-class patrol vessel, Tornado, issues a radio message telling vessels anchored in Gibraltar waters to “leave Spanish territorial waters. A number of Royal Navy vessel were deployed in response to the incident. The Spanish vessel then sailed with “weapons uncovered and manned.” Incidents of this nature are common in the region due to the contentious issue over Gibraltar’s sovereignty.

On 5 March, a Crane collapsed onboard ENI’s platform, Barbara F, located in the Adriatic Sea, some 30nm off Italy’s Alcona coast. The crane broke from platform structure while hoisting gas cylinder and collapsed onto an offshore supply ship at the platform’s side. The crane then slid into the sea, with operator trapped inside the cabin. Two members of the offshore supply ship required an airlift to the hospital. Scuba teams have reportedly already reached the crane; which remains suspended by cables at 70m below the surface.

JSC Rosoboronexport, Russian intermediary agency for Russia’s arms exports/imports, has filed a lawsuit against Baltic Trans-Port Company who chartered a Russia-flagged general cargo ship Nikifor Begichev after an S-400 missile system was damaged while in transit January last year. All the missile sets were reportedly found to be in irreparable condition and a total loss. The system in question was sold to China and a new system will now be delivered.

Azerbaijan’s state oil firm SOCAR has announced the increase in production from its new refinery in Izmir, Turkey, and is actively buying sour crude grades for the facility. The result of which is tightening the already tight sour crude market in the Mediterranean and Europe.

N/AThere have been no notable piracy, armed robbery or other maritime incidents in Europe in the past month.


Maritime PiracyModerate

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.