Protection Vessels International: Weekly Piracy Report

Somalia: Tokyo to extend anti-piracy mission by one year

17 June

The Japanese government announced it would extend its Self-Defence Force’s (MSDF) anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia by another year until 23 July 2017. Japan has so far deployed two destroyers and patrol aircraft to the Gulf of Aden to guard against and deter pirate activity since the deployment began in 2009. Japan’s Defence Minister Gen Nakatani stated that a significant drawdown in forces in the region could lead to a resurgence of piracy in the region.

PVI Analysis: The announcement comes amid ongoing reports of suspicious vessels approaching ships in the High Risk Area (HRA) off Somalia, a number of which have been deterred by patrol aircraft or evasive measures by targeted vessels. The reports indicate a continued threat from criminal groups targeting vessels in the HRA.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Armed robbers board product tanker at Dumai Anchorage

17 June

Three suspected robbers armed with knives boarded a product tanker at Dumai Anchorage at 0110 hrs local time. Duty crew noticed the assailants during routine rounds and the duty officer raised the alarm and the crew mustered. One of the assailants initially ran towards a crew member and threatened him, although all three robbers fled the scene upon seeing the crew alertness. Crew reported that they attempted to call port control via the VHF channel, although they received no response. Nothing was reported stolen although the padlock to the steering room entrance was broken.

Indonesia: Armed robbers board vessel off Batam Island

15 June

According to the International Maritime Bureau, armed robbers boarded a heavy lift carrier anchored off Batu Ampar, Batam Island. The gunmen held the duty officer at gunpoint, stole engine spares and fled at 0300 hrs local time.

PVI Analysis: Robbers often target vessels anchored off Indonesia, although these recent reports both involve a degree of violence not typically seen in previous incidents of petty theft in the region, underscoring the need for vessels in the region to remain vigilant. The incidents come amid a series of petty thefts in Indonesian waters, and could mark the beginning of a more concerning trend of violent robberies at Indonesian anchorages.

Micronesia: Suspicious boats approach vessel off Caroline Islands

15 June

Two suspicious boats claiming to be navy boats approached a vehicle carrier at high speed between Pisares Island and East Fayu Island, Caroline Islands. The boats called the vessel and asked it to stop, prompting the master to raise the alarm and increase speed. However, the boats continued their approach, stating they were naval boats and they would attack if the vessel did not stop. The vehicle carrier continued to take evasive action against the boats, which abandoned the chase after 20 minutes.

PVI Analysis: The identity of the perpetrators remains unknown and reports of maritime crime in Micronesian waters are rare. In the past, pirates operating in Southeast Asia have been known to claim to belong to the navy in an attempt to board vessels to perpetrate kidnappings and robberies.

Philippines: Authorities deny new reports of ASG kidnap of four Malaysians

16 June

The Western Mindanao Command spokesperson has denied new reports that Islamic State-allied Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) kidnapping four Malaysians from their boat in the Celebes or Sulu seas, according to a local police officer cited by Philippine daily ABS-SBN news. The source stated the abductees were then brought to the ASG stronghold of Sulu province in the Philippines.

PVI Analysis: If the reports are true, the incident would indicate the latest in a series of kidnappings at sea by the Islamist group since March, after about 14 Malaysian and Indonesian sailors were kidnapped in March and April from slow-moving tugboats. According to a Philippines military source, Kuala Lumpur has also denied the kidnappings took place. ASG is currently holding some seven hostages in its stronghold in Sulu.

West Africa

Angola: Crew apprehend robber at Luanda Anchorage

13 June

According to a late report, a robber boarded an anchored tanker at Luanda Anchorage and was apprehended by the vessel’s crew as he transferred ship’s stores into his boat at 2145 hrs local time. Police later arrived on the scene and arrested the assailant.

PVI Analysis: Maritime robberies are rarely reported in Angola, although many incidents are thought to go unreported as petty and armed crimes are common in the country. Theft is more common after dark when robberies are more likely to go unnoticed.

Nigeria: Suspicious speedboat sighted in Akwa Ibom state

14 June

A black speedboat with six persons on board was reported as suspicious in the Emeroke Channel, Akwa Ibom state, in the Niger Delta region. No further details of the boat’s activities were given.

PVI Analysis: The sighting comes amid ongoing militancy in the Niger Delta. Several militant groups have emerged in the region since mid-February, claiming attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in the region. It is likely such groups use speedboats to navigate the region’s creeks although the identity of those on board the boat remains unclear.

Select Maritime News

Cambodia: Sihanouk government halts “illegal” Koh Rong port project

15 June

Sihanoukville Governor Y Sokleng announced that a Preah Sihanouk provincial working group under the government halted the construction of a port on Koh Rong island because it was deemed illegal. According to the working group, business magnate Kith Meng’s Royal Group company had not received the required legal permits to construct the port. The working group gave few other details. The decision came after the Royal Group’s construction of a port on Sihanoukville’s Otres Beach was also halted in January for a violation of coastal development guidelines. The regulatory environment in Cambodia is considered highly opaque, corrupt and inconsistent.

China: Beijing sends ships to search for missing Vietnamese plane in the Gulf of Tonkin

17 June

China sent three ships to find a missing Vietnamese coastguard plane following a request from Hanoi. The CASA turboprop plane with nine people on board crashed on 16 June in the Gulf of Tonkin, between Vietnam’s northern coastline and China’s Hainan Island, while looking for a fighter jet and pilot who went missing on 14 June. China sent one rescue vessel and two coastguard boats to help search for the CASA plane, Reuters reported.

Denmark: Authorities investigate shipping companies for violating sulphur regulations

20 June

The Danish Ministry of Environment and Food announced five shipping companies are under investigation after oil samples indicated their fuels were not compliant with new sulphur regulations. On 1 January 2015, EU regulations came into force requiring ships transiting the North and Baltic seas and the Channel to reduce the sulphur oxides content of vessel fuel emissions from 1 percent to 0.1 percent.

France: Union suspends Fos-Lavera oil terminal strike

19 June

CGT union members announced they had suspended a four week long strike at the southern Fos-Lavera oil terminal. The industrial action commenced on 23 May in reaction to government labour reforms and caused severe disruption to loading and unloading of vessels at the terminal. No breakthrough with government negotiations was announced alongside the notice, indicating the strike could resume in the coming weeks.

France: Union calls for nationwide port strike on 23, 28 June

16 June

France’s CGT union called for a nationwide port strike on 23 June and 28 June as part of the ongoing protests against the government’s labour reform bill. Rolling strikes in recent weeks have already disrupted activity at the oil terminal in Le Havre in northern France, which handles about 40 percent of the country’s crude imports. The action has also caused major backlogs at the Fos-Lavera oil terminal in the south.

Greece: Piraeus, Thessaloniki strikes to continue on 17 and 21 June

16 June

The head of the Piraeus Union of Dockers said that longshoremen at Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports would carry out 48-hour strikes on 17 and 21 June, and that a series of rolling strikes would continue until their demands are met. The union is striking against the proposed privatisation of the ports amid concerns it would lead to job losses. Privatisation forms a key part of the EU Greece bailout plan to restructure national debt and limit public spending.

India: Government calls for port, coastal security audit

16 June

The home minister called for increased efforts to secure ports and waterways as part of a plan to improve coastal security. The minister cited concerns over historical instances of weapons smuggling and militant attacks. The Maharashtra chief minister suggested the creation of a dedicated Central Marine Police Force for coastal and port protections during a meeting of regional officials. India has carried out two coastal security increases in recent years, including the installation of increased numbers of radar and Automatic Identification System (AIS) stations along the coastline.

Indonesia: Navy fires on Chinese fishing vessel in disputed South China Sea

20 June

Beijing has accused the Indonesian Navy of firing on a Chinese fishing boat near the Natuna Islands, off the coast of Borneo in the southern part of the South China Sea. One fisherman was injured and several were detained by the naval forces, according to China’s foreign office. The incident is rare as Indonesia has not been involved in the persistent tensions over disputed islands in the sea, which have mainly involved Vietnam and the Philippines. However, militia of Chinese fishermen have been used by Beijing to assert control over areas through illegal fishing, and the incident could indicate Indonesia is becoming more invested in the disputes over Chinese encroachment.

Indonesia: Police fire warning shot against migrants on boats

17 June

Indonesian police fired a warning shot after 44 Sri Lankan migrants on an Indian-flagged vessel attempted to disembark the boat. The vessel was stranded in shallow waters off Aceh province on 11 June after it broke down on its way to Australia. Aceh authorities have refused to allow the migrants, believed to be Sri Lankan Tamils, to leave the boat, despite a directive from Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla to allow them to disembark. The UN has expressed concern over the condition of the people on the boat.

Iran: New Delhi to begin investment in Chabahar port, transport corridor

16 June

India said that it would send materials worth USD 150 mn to Iran in July for Indian rail firm PSU IRCON to build a railway from Chabahar Port to Afghanistan. India is investing up to USD 500 mn into Chabahar Port as part of a historic trilateral agreement over a transport corridor between Iran, Afghanistan and India. The deal was signed during a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Iran in May.

Iran: Tehran, Seoul set up regular container service

14 June

Officials at South Korea’s main Port of Incheon announced a regular container service will commence between Incheon and Iran’s Bandar Abbas port named HDM Loof. The service will call at China’s Qingdao, Tianjin, Shanghai and Dalian ports; South Korea’s Incheon, Gwangyang and Busan ports; Dubai’s Jebel Ali port and Iran’s Bandar Abbas and Asaluyeh ports. President of the Incheon Port Authority Yoo Chang-keun stated the route will expand trade ties with Iran and neighbouring countries in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Japan: Tokyo says Chinese spy ship shadowed trilateral naval drill in Western Pacific

15 June

A Japanese official said that a Chinese observation ship shadowed a US aircraft carrier, the John C Stennis, in the Western Pacific, in joining vessels from Tokyo and India for a naval exercise. The Stennis, which has been followed by the Chinese ship since patrolling in the South China Sea, will sail apart from the other ships, acting as a ‘decoy’ to draw the Chinese vessel away from the eight-day naval drill, according to Reuters. The news comes amid growing concerns, particularly for the US and Japan, over China’s aggressive stance over its territorial claims in the disputed South and East China Seas.

Kenya: Authorities increase security at Likoni ferry channel after terror alert

19 June

Mombasa county commissioner Maalim Mohamed said security measures have been stepped up at the Likomi ferry channel following a terror alert for the Mombasa region which was issued on 13 June. The measures include screening of both people and vehicles passing through the channel, warning that terrorists may attempt to board the ferry with a vehicle packed with explosives. The ferry carries more than 1,000 people at a time and has previously allowed vehicles to board without screening. The measures come after Mohamed warned that al-Shabaab were planning to step up terror attacks on Kenyan targets on 13 June during the holy month of Ramadan.

Libya: UN authorises maritime inspections to halt arms trafficking

14 June

The UN Security Council voted to authorise the inspection of vessels off the coast of Libya suspected of carrying illegal arms shipments for 12 months, in an effort to halt the trafficking of weapons to militant groups in the country. The move clears the way for British and French forces carrying out Operation Sophia against human smuggling to enforce an arms embargo imposed on Libya in 2011. The UN said that member states should consult the Government of National Accord over the inspections and that authorities should obtain the consent of their flag state before inspections are carried out on suspected vessels.

Libya: Greek coastguard diverts two merchant vessels to search for migrant boat

13 June

Greece’s coast guard called upon a Greek-flagged tanker and a Panama-flagged freighter to search for a 25 metre-long boat carrying 200 migrants 15 nm off Libya’s coast. Greek authorities said they did not move to rescue the boat as it was not in Greek waters. The migrant boat sent out a distress signal although it was later spotted sailing safely to Italy, making it unclear what occurred during the search operation. Some 2,809 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean so far in 2016, up from 1,838 during the same period in 2015 as the numbers of migrants making the crossing have increased significantly.

Malaysia: Outstanding cargo payments leads to backlog at Port Klang

16 June

More than 18 trucks are stuck at the docks of Port Klang due to a series of unsettled payments by an unnamed importing company to a logistics firm called Giga Shipping Sdn Bhd. According to Giga, a shipment of 65 vehicles was received in March from the importing company, which has failed to pay the USD 17,000 to Giga required to transport the vehicles out of the port. Without the payment, Giga has refused to move their trucks and has contacted police to inspect whether the cars were illegally imported.

Morocco: Police seize 522 kg of cannabis in Tangiers port

13 June

The police said that they seized 522 kg of cannabis hidden in bags on a vehicle at the maintenance quay of Tangiers port. Authorities opened an investigation into the case, though there were no immediate reports of arrests. Morocco is one of the largest producers of cannabis in the world and much of the cannabis in Europe comes from its northern Rif region.

Myanmar: Authorities struggle to clear port congestion at Yangon

13 June

The new civilian government has failed to clear a weeks-long traffic jam of cargo ships at Yangon’s Myanmar Industrial Port (MIP), amid a surge in maritime trading since the country elected Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party in March. The port is considered to be dilapidated and unable to handle the increase in cargo shipments. The latest backlog was caused by the three-week New Year’s holiday in Myanmar in April which saw ships unable to unload their cargo due to a reduced port workforce. In addition, the government’s crackdown on Chinese sugar smuggling from Myanmar has meant increased security controls on cargo. Since mid-May, the port has introduced 24-hour operations to clear the backlog.

New Zealand: Police seize 448 kg of narcotics worth USD 315 mn

14 June

Police confiscated New Zealand’s largest ever haul of methamphetamine – 448 kg of narcotics worth USD 315 mn – from an abandoned boat at the remote 90 Mile Beach. Three men were arrested in the operation. Authorities said they raided the boat after receiving complaints from local residents that a group of men had been acting suspiciously in the area in recent weeks, and had unsuccessfully tried to launch boats off the beach, even offering locals large amounts of cash to help them.

Seychelles: Two Vietnamese seamen kill Korean captain in Indian Ocean

20 June

Two Vietnamese crewmembers of a South Korean fishing vessel killed the ship’s Korean captain and the ship’s engineer while they were in the Indian Ocean, near the Seychelles’ Victoria. The two assailants were then overpowered by the other crewmembers and are being detained as the boat sails to Victoria, according to South Korean Coast Guard officials. Reports claim the assailants were drunk at the time and disagreed with the captain’s orders. Seoul has dispatched a team of investigators to the Seychelles to detain and question the suspects.

South Korea: Shipbuilder workers plan strike action

17 June

Unionised employees of shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) announced they would hold a walkout over wage negotiations, amid HHI’s efforts to restructure the firm. Workers did not give a date when the action would commence however, although hundreds of workers are expected to take part in the strike. The walkout would be the third to affect HHI in three years amid workers’ fears of job losses and pay.

Thailand: Spate of bomb attacks target Pattani port towns

19 June

South Thailand insurgents carried out a series of bomb attacks in Pattani on 18 and 19 June, targeting port towns. According to local reports, the unidentified insurgents floated small IEDs on foam boxes to target wharf and boat landings, introducing new risks to maritime activity in the region. The first attack occurred at 2200 hrs local time on 18 June at Siripong fish wharf. The second attack hit a boat landing behind the Sarabang Community School. In both attacks several fishing boats were damaged. Authorities have been unable to stop the rise in violence in the southern provinces since the begging of 2016, and efforts to begin peace talks with the Runda Kumpulan Kecil and Mara Patani rebel groups have failed.

United States: Maritime agency threatens action against shippers over container weighing

17 June

The US’s Federal Maritime Commission, which is responsible for US maritime regulations, has warned that it will take action against shipping companies that do not take appropriate measures to comply with new SOLAS container weighing regulations. The measures, due to come into force on 1 July, stipulate shippers must provide documentation showing containers’ verified gross mass. Some shippers said they were concerned that the new rules will cause delays and congestion at ports after a trial found large discrepancies between the actual and declared weights of containers in March 2016.

Venezuela: PDVSA to discharge crude cargo after agreement with BP

13 June

State run oil company PDVSA has discharged another cargo of US crude sold by BP following waiting times of more than a month related to payment problems, which were sold under a swap agreement. BP and China Oil were awarded a tender launched by PDVSA in March to import some 8 mn barrels of US light crude for delivery in the second quarter at its terminal in the Caribbean island of Curacao. The first three cargoes were unloaded during the first half of April almost without delay, but others started gathering around Curacao since then waiting for payments. According to Reuters, there are four more tankers chartered by BP carrying some 2.15 mn barrels of US crude waiting to discharge around Curacao.

Vietnam: Military says fighter jet missing in South China Sea

15 June

A Vietnamese fighter jet disappeared off the radar during a training flight in the South China Sea. The Russian-made Sukhoi SU-30 MK2 was flying 30-40 km off the coast of Nghe An province near China’s Hainan island when it went missing, a military official told Reuters. The cause of the incident is yet to be determined. The development comes as Vietnam is seeking to upgrade its aging fleet of helicopters and boost its defence capabilities amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, where Hanoi has competing territorial claims with China.

Source: Protection Vessels International