Developments in Somali and South East Asian Piracy

The ‘eradication’ of Somali piracy in 2012 was heralded as a key success story for international intervention, and the operational structure advertised as a panacea for counter-piracy initiatives globally. Warnings that Somali piracy was merely experiencing a lull and would inevitably return were largely ignored. A spate of successful hijackings, the first since 2012, appear to have proven such warnings correct.

South East Asian piracy, predominantly involving product theft rather than kidnap-for-ransom, has traditionally failed to catch headlines to an extent comparable with its more violent Somali cousin. Although hijackings for product theft hit a five-year low in 2016, an upsurge in kidnap-for-ransom incidents have catalysed promises of heightened regional cooperation between littoral states.

The Return of Somali piracy?

International presence in the Gulf of Aden has, surreptitiously, decreased since 2012 as the risk perception has lowered and international appetite for continuing to invest resources has diminished in a time of fiscal crisis. Most recently, and perhaps ironically, a NATO force was disbanded in December 2016 due to a lack of pirate attacks, although an EU naval force remains. The 2017 spate of hijackings represent the first successful hijackings since 2012, however attempted hijackings have continued from 2012 to the present day, though at markedly lower rates than at the peak of Somali piracy. This supports the belief that Somali pirates merely experienced a temporary setback and that, with none of the root causes of piracy addressed, the conditions remained ripe for a resurgence. The first hijacking of a Comoros-flagged oil tanker resulted in the release of both ship and crew without a ransom payment following lengthy negotiations between pirates, clan elders, and marine forces. Allegedly the release was prompted by the fact that the tanker had been hired by Somali businessmen, whose interests pirates have traditionally been loath to counter. Furthermore,  Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the current president of Puntland who came to power in 2014, has been less consistent in payment to the Darawisha, Puntland’s paramilitary forces of Puntland, than his predecessor.[1] This is an uncomfortable echo of the 2007 failure to pay Puntland’s police force, which was a significant trigger in the rise of piracy and is likely to increase collusion between Darawisha and pirate actors.

The key danger posed by this first successful hijacking – that it may incite copycat crimes by advertising gaps in protection of the waters – appears to have materialised. Although the targets themselves may be of lesser significance than those selected during the heyday, they show that the piracy business model remains intact and that the actors that support it are quick to take advantage of government weakness on land, such as the recent post-election disarray. The myriad attempts since 2012 can accurately be viewed as ‘probing’ missions, testing the level of defences in the water. Arguably it is only a matter of time before larger vessels of similar importance to those considered prime prey in 2012 are targeted. As the Somali government struggles to cope with the worst drought since 1945, and the ensuing famine, the pirates appear to be returning.

Illegal Fishing: Ripe for Resurgence

The first Somali pirates to garner attention by conducting significant hijackings portrayed themselves as vigilante forces protecting the Somali waters from illegal fishing, which had destroyed the livelihood of many of the poor coastal communities, leaving them with few alternatives. Once the pirates’ activities were temporarily halted by foreign intervention, illegal fishing, predominantly Irani, Yemeni, and Asian but also European, returned. Foreign naval forces are empowered by a UN mandate to stop hijackings, but lack any formal authority to inspect or apprehend illegal fishing vessels, despite ongoing calls for a UN resolution to permit this. A number of Puntland fishermen have reported that approaching Iranian dhows fishing illegally results in fire from armed guards, who are ex-Somali pirates. In addition, a number of illegal fishing vessels have been ‘fined’ by Somali ‘coast guards’ in areas where official coast guards do not exist, making such payments look suspiciously like ransoms, possibly to pirates policing the waters. Although early justifications that the Aries 12 bunker hijacking in April was because of a growth in illegal fishing seem unfounded, permitting illegal fishing to go unchecked, as it has done in the last few years, provides a justification for many Somalis to return to, or at the very least, justify piracy.

SE Asian Piracy: A Spike in Kidnap-for-Ransom

South East Asian piracy predates Somali piracy, with the first documented hijacking for product theft in the 1980s, while piracy as a way of life has its roots in the region’s pre-colonial history. However, an increase in kidnap-for-ransom hijackings in the last 12 months, helping drive a 44% upsurge in 2016 global maritime kidnap figures,[1] suggest that kidnap-for-ransom has superseded product theft as the most successful model of piracy.

These hijackings can be attributed to militants, largely based in the Tawi Tawi archipelago and off southern Mindanao in the Philippines, whose operations principally hinge on smuggling contraband, supplementing their revenue stream with kidnap-for-ransom ‘snatch and grabs’. These militants hand over hostages in return for payment to Islamic terrorist Abu Sayaf splinter groups, who are held responsible in the media for directly hijacking a number of vessels. Abu Sayaf appear to have shifted from on-shore to off-shore kidnappings – in 2015 the group is known to have kidnapped five foreigners, all on-shore; in the last nine months of 2016 the group is believed to have kidnapped over 50 foreigners in circa 20 offshore attacks.[2]

Although the militants are known to have sympathies with Abu Sayaf, the link can more accurately be classed as a business relationship. An increase in the rate of hijackings has worried authorities, however perhaps of greater concern is the growing trend by Abu Sayaf militants of beheading hostages, both foreign and local, where ransom demands are not paid. The militants conducting the initial kidnapping are still paid, suggesting that these Abu Sayaf splinters have become more extreme and have successfully secured other revenue streams. They can therefore afford a degree of financial collateral damage in failing to recoup a ransom where this makes a strong political statement.

These Abu Sayaf splinter groups are based on Jolo and Basilan islands, where it is believed most hostages are held. The Philippine government has maintained a policy of refusing to pay ransom demands by Abu Sayaf, and is currently engaged in continuous armed conflicts with the insurgency group. The focus of responses should be on eradicating, or at least limiting, the group’s land bases, which prevents the group being able to move hostages to secure locations throughout the negotiation phase of the kidnappings. This is far from achieved in the Southern Philippines.

SE Asian Piracy: Responses and Lessons Learnt from Somalia

In February 2017, an uptick in hijackings in the Sulu Sea, and more specifically the Sibutu Passage, a deep water channel between Malaysia’s Sabah state and the southern Philippines, triggered renewed calls from the Philippines for international, specifically US and China, support in safeguarding the passage.

The Sibutu passage, used by over 13,000 vessels per year, provides the fastest route between manufacturing giants China, Japan and South Korea, and Australia. The targets of recent hijackings are of larger tonnage to the smaller fishing vessels or tug boats previously chosen. This has prompted Philippine coast guard officials to compare the developing situation in the Sibutu passage with that in the Gulf of Aden in its heyday, and call for similar international support. RECAAP,[3] the regional cooperation body tasked with addressing piracy, has advised ships to re-route to avoid the passage, however longer journey times may discourage vessels from adhering to this.

Some lessons learnt from the Somali counter-piracy campaign may be effectively applied to the Sibutu passage, and do not require military intervention, or the vast expenditure it implies. While some ships have started to implement basic security measures, such as placing barbed wire on vulnerable embarkation points, universal adherence to best practice guidelines published by RECAAP,[4] and the layered approach they advocate towards protection, should be encouraged. However, given the willingness of militants to kill in boarding vessels, best practice adherence must be partnered with other initiatives to have a significant impact. These include implementing a high security corridor through the Sulu sea, mimicking the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden, an initiative currently under consideration by the littoral states.  The use of armed guards in the overlapping territorial waters, despite rumours of unofficial operations, remains illegal.

SE Asian Trilateral patrols: Tried, tested and found wanting

The launch of a new joint force to combat a spike in hijackings by the Philippine, Malaysian and Indonesian Governments was painted by officials as the dawn of a new era of unprecedented cooperation which would seek to ensure safe passage for commercial ships through the Sibutu passage, either by increasing monitoring or by providing an escort. It is less clear where the resources to implement these aims are to be sourced. This exposes the gap between the aspirational aims of trilateral patrols, and the likely limited operational impact, stymied by a lack of capacity and uneasy cooperation on the ground. This is not the first time trilateral patrols have been mooted as the solution – they proved largely unsuccessful in reducing piracy in the Malacca Strait post-2005, instead increased Malaysian and Indonesian enforcement patrols were required.

Diplomatic relations between the trio have been strained by Philippine inaction, where corruption forms a significant barrier to progression. Philippine domestic forces would need to operate together to provide the support pledged in the new patrol agreements. Antagonism between the Philippine military and police, and endemic corruption across these and the coast guard, makes domestic cooperation difficult, and consequently significant cooperation with international partners seem unlikely. Indeed, the military and police are believed to pocket a portion of ransoms paid for the release of hostages in recent cases.

The legal framework regulating the actions of navy forces in neighbours’ waters presents a further barrier to successful cooperation – the three nations lack expedited consent agreements allowing for hot pursuit, and Malaysia adheres to a 1984 law which prohibits hot pursuit into another nation’s Exclusive Economic Zones (let alone its territorial waters). Without overcoming this hurdle, the operational functioning of trilateral patrols is significantly limited and will face a similar fate to those of the Malacca Strait.

Conclusion

Anti-piracy operations in Somalia predominantly target piracy as a sea-based crime, ignoring its land roots and the need to address these in order to provide a long-term solution. The poor coastal communities which engendered piracy remain without a viable alternative income stream, and the surge in illegal fishing has given select Somalis further incentive to return to piracy. Similarly, although greater regional cooperation among littoral states should be encouraged, without successfully targeting the land roots of Abu Sayaf, increased naval presence is unlikely to be sustainable or successful.


[1] Risk Intelligence Analysis, “Somali Piracy: Future Prospects” Strategic Insights No.63 (February 2017).

[2] Hellenic Shortsea Shipowners Association (2017) ‘Why global hijacks have decreased but maritime kidnaps and terrorism are rising’.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Regional Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia. A 2004 multilateral agreement between 16 countries in Asia.

[5]RECAAP, (2016), ‘Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia’.

 

Source: The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime

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Mindanao Conflict Risks Spike in Southeast Asia Piracy

Since the peak of the Somali piracy crisis at the turn of the decade, the crowded waters of Southeast Asia have replaced those of the west Indian Ocean as the world’s most dangerous. A spike in hijackings for cargo theft in the congested Malacca Strait, along with a spate of kidnappings-for-ransom in the Sulu Sea by Abu Sayyaf militants, have prompted many to label the region as the world’s new piracy hotspot.

The worst-affected states – Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines – have responded by launching joint naval patrols, resulting in a reduction in the threat level over the past year. However, recent incidents – including the hijacking of a Thai oil tanker in waters off Kuantan in June, and the beheading of two captured Vietnamese sailors on Basilan Island by Abu Sayyaf on 5 July – serve as stark and timely reminders that the threat is far from over.

In fact, Southeast Asia’s piracy problem could be about to take a dramatic turn for the worse. The escalating militancy on the Philippines’ southernmost island of Mindanao – which has drawn in foreign fighters and developed an international-jihadist element not previously seen in the region – could result in a period of prolonged instability and lawlessness, creating the perfect conditions for a new wave of piracy to develop and thrive.

If the jihadist violence worsens, the potential exists for extremists to turn to large-scale piracy to fund their activities, wreaking further havoc in the Sulu Sea and extending their reach to the region’s crowded commercial shipping lanes, where more lucrative and high-profile targets lie in wait.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News

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India Takes Steps to Counter Piracy

The Government has taken steps as part of various preventive/mitigating security measures to deal with sea-piracy, Minister of State for Shipping and Road Transport and Highways Pon. Radhakrishnan stated.

An Inter-Ministerial Group (IMGO) has been set up by the Government under the Ministry of Shipping to deal with the hostage situation arising out of hijacking at sea of merchant vessels with Indian crew.
Government had also approved the Contingency Plan for dealing with piracy and hijacking of merchant ships and constituted a Committee of Secretaries on Anti-Piracy and Hijacking at sea (COSAPH) under the Chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary.
In addition to this, the following initiatives have also been taken
(i)         Guidelines for anti-piracy measures to be implemented on Indian Ships through issue of Merchant Shipping Notice No.1 of 2011 dated 14.1.2011.  The guidelines provide for elaborate anti-piracy measures (Best Management Practices), including safe house/citadel for vessels.
(ii)        Banning of sailing vessels to ply in waters south or west of the line joining Salalah and Male through Merchant Shipping Notice No. 3/2010 dated 31.3.2010.
(iii)       Advisory issued by Directorate General of Shipping vide Notice No. 35-NT(2)/2017 dated 6th April, 2017 for not transiting through Gulf of Aden.
(iv)       Naval escort provided by Indian naval ships in the Gulf of Aden since 2008.
(v)        Enhanced vigil by the Indian Navy in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and westward upto 65 degree east longitude.
(vi)       Active participation of India in the security meetings of the International Maritime Organization, Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and other international fora.
There have been 2 piracy attempts and no incident of hijacking at Indian flag merchant vessels during the last 3 years and the current year.
Source: Marine Link
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Spain Hands Over Force Command to Italy During Ceremony on board ESPS Galicia in Djibouti Port

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The Hijacking of the Brillante Virtuoso

A mysterious assault. An unsolved murder. And a ship that hasn’t given up all its secrets

Nestor Tabares must have known the hijackers were out there, waiting. It was his 13th day at sea aboard the oil tanker Brillante Virtuoso, and as the ship turned east, into the pirate-strewn waters off Somalia, the 54-year-old chief engineer would have understood that it made for an obvious target. With a top speed of less than 13 knots and stretching 300 yards from bow to rusting stern, the black-hulled Brillante was plodding into the world’s most dangerous shipping lane with a cargo worth $100 million.

It was July 2011, and the threat of Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden had never been more severe. The Brillante’s crew of 26 Filipinos, including Tabares and the ship’s captain, Noe Gonzaga, 57, set up the standard deterrents. Around the deck’s perimeter they fitted coils of razor wire, aimed eight high-pressure hoses for blasting attackers off the hull, and propped up a scarecrow in overalls, to suggest the presence of a watchman. Deep inside the tanker, they stocked a mechanical space with food, water, radios, and medical supplies—a panic room in the event pirates did come aboard. Most of the crew had faith that would never happen. They knew the ship’s owner, a company called Suez Fortune Investments Ltd., had arranged for a small security team to rendezvous off the Yemeni port of Aden, as an escort through the most dangerous part of their journey.

On the evening of July 5, Gonzaga ordered the crew to cut the engine and drift while they awaited the guards’ arrival the next morning. They were 12 nautical miles off the Yemeni coast. It was calm, partly cloudy, and silent, apart from the hum of generators and the sloshing of breakers.

A 40-year-old able seaman named Allan Marquez stayed up to keep watch on the bridge. Just before midnight, he saw a blip on the port-side radar, approaching fast. He reached for a pair of binoculars. A motorboat was moving in the moonlight. As it came closer, Marquez could make out seven people—six of them in desert-style camouflage, holding what looked like rifles. His superior on the watch, Second Officer Roberto Artezuela, rang Gonzaga in his cabin, and Marquez made his way to the deck.

“Who are you?” Marquez yelled down to the boat, trying to sound friendly. One of the men produced a megaphone. He said they were the security team, members of the crew would later recount, and asked to board. Marquez didn’t know what to do. Something seemed off. This was too many men, at the wrong time, and one wasn’t even wearing shoes. Letting armed strangers onto the ship went against every antipiracy protocol. Marquez radioed up for instructions. After a few minutes an order came back: Lower a ladder.

Six men climbed up. They had light brown skin and wore red-and-white keffiyehs and blue hospital masks. Their rifles looked like Kalashnikovs, and they carried black pistols in holsters on their thighs. When Marquez asked for ID, they refused, seized his radio, and demanded to be taken to the captain.

Gonzaga was still in his stateroom when Marquez appeared at his door, trailed by one of the armed visitors. “Gather all of the crew in the television room,” the gunman said. Marquez went cabin to cabin, rousing sleepy crewmates. After all 26 were assembled in the small TV room, now fully aware that they’d lost control of their ship, the six gunmen split up. Two took Gonzaga to the bridge, two marched Tabares to the engine room, and two stood sentry outside.

For a long time, the 24 sailors remaining in the TV room sat there, wondering what was happening to their captain and chief engineer, until a clatter of gunshots suggested the worst. They dared not open the door. At one point, the Brillante’s engine roared to life; the ship was moving, but no one knew where. Suddenly, at around 3 a.m., an explosion sounded within the tanker, knocking out the electricity and setting off alarms. Fearful of their guards, the crew waited in place—but when smoke began to fill the room, a few crept out and discovered that the intruders had fled.

The Brillante was built like two rectangles joined at a right angle: one vast, flat, hollow shape that held the liquid cargo, and one smaller, upright stack that contained mechanical systems and crew spaces. The fire was underneath them, and rising. Guided by dim emergency lights, Marquez and several other crewmen rushed to the top of the block, where they found Gonzaga on the bridge, alone and unharmed, bound by plastic ties. They sliced him free. As smoke poured out of the tanker’s funnels, sailors made a distress call that was picked up by the USS Philippine Sea, a guided-missile cruiser on pirate patrol nearby. Gonzaga gave the order: Prepare to abandon ship.

On deck, the crew counted off. Twenty-five men—all but Tabares. Panic set in. The fire had reached their level, and they could hear loud, ominous cracks from metal buckling in the heat. Inside the Brillante, the temperature in some rooms was approaching the melting point of copper, testing the fireproofing that for now kept 141,000 metric tons of oil from igniting. A search party went back for Tabares, but the smoke was too thick. At 4 a.m. the crew gave up and took to the gulf in a large, orange lifeboat. As they did, the thrum of rotor chop beat down from above—it was a U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter, launched by the approaching Philippine Sea. From the air, the American crew saw fireballs rising from the stricken tanker and felt the percussive boom of explosions within. They trained infrared cameras on the hull seeking signs that the oil—four times the volume of the Exxon Valdez spill—would pour into the water. When the Philippine Sea was close enough, it sent two inflatable boats to collect the rejoicing Filipinos.

Then, at 5 a.m., the helicopter crew saw movement on deck—Tabares was alive, waving a flashlight. The flames were too intense for an aerial rescue. He leapt into the sea. Seeing a Navy boat, he reached out with both hands and was pulled to safety.

Aboard the cruiser, Gonzaga began to tell the Americans what had happened while he’d been separated from the crew. The hijackers, he said, ordered him to turn over $100,000 and sail for Somalia; they’d fired their weapons at the ship’s safe when he was slow to open it. He couldn’t say what caused the explosion. When Tabares arrived to share his tale, he said he’d managed to disable the Brillante’s engines when his captors weren’t looking, then escaped, hiding for so long that he missed the evacuation.

The Philippine Sea searched for fleeing pirates, but the motorboat was long gone. Sunrise turned the sky gray and then powdery blue. A tugboat arrived from Aden and pumped seawater onto the Brillante, taming the fire until the dead tanker drifted serenely in the morning light, low in the water, trailing a thick column of smoke.

Barely seven hours had passed since the gunmen had taken the ship. But already an international cast was activating: salvors from the region’s cutthroat ports, to scavenge millions from the wreckage; U.S. military investigators, to determine if Somali pirates had adopted brutal new tactics; and most urgently of all, an operative from the stony world of London insurance, to discover what really happened aboard his clients’ $100 million liability. Because if the hijacking of the Brillante Virtuoso wasn’t a case of fumbled piracy, it would be the most spectacular fraud in shipping history.

The events of July 6, 2011, set in motion a tangle of lawsuits and criminal investigations that are still nowhere near conclusion. Six years after it was abandoned, the Brillante Virtuoso is an epithet among shipping veterans, one that reveals their industry’s capacity for lawlessness, financial complexity, and violence. This account is based on court evidence, private and government records, and more than 60 interviews with people involved, almost all of whom asked not to be identified, citing the sensitivities of nine-figure litigation and, in some cases, concern for their own safety. Everyone at sea that night survived. But the danger was just getting started.

Anytime a commercial vessel is lost, the incident is recorded with a quill pen in a leatherbound book at Lloyd’s, a London institution that blends age-old ritual with modern finance. Contrary to common belief, Lloyd’s isn’t an insurer, or even a company in the usual sense of the word. Since its origins in a 17th century coffeehouse popular with traders who funded sea voyages, Lloyd’s has evolved into something like a stock exchange for risk, where actual insurers come to buy and sell exposure. These companies form syndicates and get insurance of their own from even larger re-insurers, who are re-re-insured in turn. These layers constitute one of the world’s most essential and least understood markets, where premiums alone generate about $40 billion a year. Anything that might be lost or cause a loss, from Bruce Springsteen’s voice to a Virgin Galactic spacecraft, can be insured via Lloyd’s, but shipping remains at its core. Some 80 to 100 major vessels are lost each year, and the Brillante was one of the largest of 2011.

After a shipwreck, insurers and insured alike have an interest in preserving as much value as possible, so they turn to salvage. Under Lloyd’s rules, salvors are entitled to a percentage of anything they save from destruction, and it’s widely assumed that some shipowners steer business to favored companies in return for a cut of their compensation. Just minutes after the Brillante’s distress signal went out, the tanker’s owner, Suez Fortune, contacted a company named Poseidon Salvage International, which got two of its boats in Aden to the scene by 7 a.m.

Four days later, Suez’s owner, a Greek named Marios Iliopoulos, flew to Aden—a chaotic city on the verge of revolution. He secured the Brillante’s crew in a hotel and gave each sailor $200 for new clothes. On a rather larger scale, Iliopoulos also prepared to submit a claim for his ruined tanker. But before the insurers would pay, they would want a better understanding of the hijacking. And for that, they would need David Mockett.

Every port, no matter how remote, has a small corps of marine surveyors, without whom Lloyd’s and global shipping would cease to function. Surveyors are hired to establish the facts of incidents from routine collisions to deadly storms; their assessments often make the difference between payment or denial of a claim. Many are former captains, who develop the skills of private investigators and execute them in perilous situations. Mockett was the top surveyor in Aden.

Born in 1946, Mockett grew up poor in a small town near the English port of Plymouth. Looking for a ticket out, he signed up with a merchant shipping line, and in the 1970s he joined a flood of Westerners seeking better prospects in booming Saudi Arabia. He lived mostly apart from his wife and two daughters, whom he regularly visited at home in England. Few outsiders take to the strictures of life in an Islamic theocracy, but Mockett found his pleasures, scuba diving to Red Sea coral reefs. In 1998 he moved to Yemen.

Compared with orderly Saudi Arabia, Yemen was like another planet—the poorest country in the Middle East, riven by sectarian conflict, with huge ungovernable areas. Men carried Kalashnikovs as standard accessories, as well as jambiyas, curved daggers with ornate handles. Mockett, with his ruddy face and thunderous laugh, was hardly inconspicuous. Locals joked that he was the tallest man in Yemen, with hands that a colleague described as like “giant plates of meat.” He soon learned how dangerous his new home could be, when al-Qaeda suicide bombers in the port of Aden killed 17 U.S. sailors aboard the USS Cole. One day the next year, getting out of a car at his office, Mockett heard a pop and felt a sharp pain. He’d been shot at, and a bullet had ricocheted off a vehicle behind him and gone clean through his neck. “Being a good surveyor,” he later joked, “I made sure I got the bullet.” He never found out why he’d been targeted.

A significant portion of the world’s maritime trade passes within a short distance of Aden’s harbor, so the city offered plenty of work for an able surveyor willing to put up with its harder edges. Mockett found ways to soften them. He became a regular at the sole Chinese restaurant, Ching Sing, which served foul Eritrean gin and whiskey in defiance of the virtual prohibition on alcohol. And he developed a certain rapport with the locals. Driving along the coast with a friend in 2008, he pulled over to photograph the ocean. A beat-up car stopped alongside, and three men stepped out.

“Are you American?” they asked. Mockett indicated that he was British. The men shook hands, but that turned out to be all the English they knew. Mockett’s companion pointed at the pistol one Yemeni wore on his belt, and then to the small, round scar on Mockett’s neck. The Yemeni lifted up his robe to go one better: A large chunk of his leg was missing. Soon they were posing for pictures and joking with the Kalashnikov that the Yemenis, inevitably, were carrying in the trunk of their car.

When the Arab Spring spread to Yemen in early 2011, friends urged Mockett to leave, at least temporarily. He refused, arguing that people back home were overreacting to the images of turmoil on TV. Yemen was safe, he said, as long as you stayed out of trouble.

When Mockett got the Brillante assignment later that year, Poseidon’s head salvor, a gnarled Greek diving expert named Vassilios Vergos, refused to give him access to the wreck for almost a week—an unusual and unexplained delay. Finally, Mockett chartered a fishing trawler to get to the tanker, where Vergos insisted on accompanying him on his rounds.

The ship, groaning in heavy seas, had a deceptive appearance—the exterior was largely intact, while the mechanical and crew sections within were a total ruin. As Mockett began exploring, his boots splashed through deep puddles of oily seawater left behind by three days of firefighting. Inside the accommodation block, the beam from his flashlight swung left and right, illuminating blackened metal contorted by heat and crusted with soot. Every few steps, he paused to take photos. The engine room, near where the fire had begun, was half-flooded, with ladders that descended into inky sludge. It was too dangerous to go deeper.

Mockett spent the night on the trawler. On his way back to Aden, he contemplated the strangeness of what he’d seen. As a rule, pirates don’t set fire to valuable ships—they hijack them and hold their crews and cargo for ransom. Nor do they abandon vessels after doing the difficult work of getting on board and taking control.

Over the next several days, Mockett expanded on his suspicions over tea in his office with friends, paging through hundreds of photos on his laptop. He had a reputation as a careful, by-the-book surveyor, hesitant about inference or speculation. “Evidence, dear boy, evidence,” was one of his stock phrases. The Brillante evidence didn’t add up. There was no sign that the attackers had used rocket-propelled grenades—one of the few pirate tactics he could think of that could realistically cause an explosion and fire. And when Mockett reviewed accounts given by the crew, he found them bizarre. It was hard to believe an experienced captain would invite armed men onto his ship in the middle of the night, in the world’s most dangerous waterway, if there was any question about their identity. The entire rendezvous was suspicious: The Gulf of Aden is an area to accelerate through, not dawdle in.

A world away at Lloyd’s, tens of millions of dollars in insurance payouts hinged on Mockett’s findings. As he prepared his report, he shared his misgivings with some of the other shipping hands—some local, some from overseas—assembling around the tanker, including one hired to offload its oil. On July 19, Mockett emailed the man to say he’d begun to suspect that the supposed Somali pirates were neither Somali nor pirates, but rather rogue elements of the Yemeni coast guard or navy. He promised to explain more soon.

The next day, at about 1 p.m., Mockett took his laptop, left his office, and climbed into his Lexus SUV. He made the short drive to his small house in a neighboring district every day for lunch. On the corner was a store selling sweets; it would normally be crowded with children, but that afternoon it was empty.

Mockett had driven a short distance onto Ma′alla, Aden’s main street, when the bomb that had been carefully placed under his seat detonated. The blast was focused and powerful, loud enough to be heard blocks away. It killed Mockett instantly, almost blowing his door off its hinges. As the car burned, belching smoke into the hazy sky, a crowd of locals in traditional white caps pushed toward the flames, shouting. Mockett’s body lay on the street next to the broken door, one arm extended, bent at the wrist, as if reaching for the gearstick.

The murder was shocking even in a city accustomed to bombings. A small crowd held a procession a few days later, carrying placards bearing Mockett’s photo and chanting, “God be merciful, God receive him.” The Yemeni Ministry of the Interior ordered an investigation, and local police asked one of Mockett’s closest friends in Aden, a fellow Brit named Roy Facey, to write a report. Facey’s contacts in the area warned him not to include anything too inflammatory. In the document, which he submitted on July 23, Facey described discussing the Brillante with Mockett just before he died and hearing him dismiss the story of Somali pirates.

Facey suspected Mockett had been killed because of what he’d learned—and he now possessed the same dangerous knowledge. On July 25, Facey was awakened at 1:30 a.m. by a call from the British embassy in Sana′a, the capital. A woman told him his life was in danger. She wouldn’t describe the threat or how the embassy knew about it, only saying he should hide until someone could retrieve him—and then leave the country immediately.

Facey locked himself inside his apartment for more than 36 hours. Late in the afternoon on July 26, kids playing on the street outside stopped to stare as two shiny 4x4s rolled up. A group of burly men with American accents emerged, wearing civilian clothes and pistols on their belts. They bundled Facey into one of the vehicles, eventually depositing him at the airport. The men didn’t identify themselves, but Facey thought he knew who they were. U.S. special forces were active throughout southern Yemen at the time, coordinating drone strikes and commando raids on al-Qaeda-linked militants. Facey flew out of Aden without ever learning who wanted him dead. (He declined to comment.)

Another British citizen soon arrived to investigate Mockett’s murder. Jonathan Tottman, a detective seconded to the British foreign service from London’s Metropolitan Police, looked less like a cop than a diplomat, partial to elegant suits. But he had a broad record investigating corruption, terrorism, even soccer hooliganism, and ample experience in the Middle East. He’d need it. The rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s authoritarian president, seemed like it was about to collapse, and the country was tearing itself apart. A suicide bomber killed nine soldiers at an army checkpoint just before Tottman landed, and he could move around the city only with a phalanx of heavily armed Yemeni guards.

There wasn’t much to investigate. The authorities had cleared the site of the car bomb almost immediately, collecting little evidence; Mockett’s laptop disappeared into police custody. Al-Qaeda had menaced Westerners across Yemen, but Tottman and others believed the murder was extremely unlikely to have been an act of terror. No militant group claimed credit for killing Mockett, and the blast had been relatively small, injuring no one else on a busy street.

In the weeks after the bombing, another of Mockett’s longtime friends asked a Pakistani surveyor in Aden to see what he could find out about the Brillante. The Pakistani was soon arrested. Yemeni officials took his passport and detained him for five days in a shabby building near the harbor, locking him in a small room with only a bucket for drinking water. After his release, the man fled the country, and Mockett’s friend took the incident as a warning to stop asking questions.

Ultimately, too much money and too many actors were involved for the Brillante’s ruin to go unexamined. Other inquiries continued. The U.S. Navy wrote up skeptical reports, based on the efforts of the Philippine Sea. One summary noted that pirates typically start fires to lure crew out of a fortified hold, yet on the Brillante the hijackers had control of everyone on board. “Highly suspicious that pirates would even try to attack a ship so late at night with very little illumination,” the document continued. Navy personnel also noted that, curiously, Gonzaga and Tabares had requested to board one of Poseidon’s tugs almost immediately after being rescued. They did so, then refused officers’ requests to return to the Philippine Sea for more interviews.

Pirates in the Gulf of Aden are generally dark-skinned Somalis who speak the distinctive language of that country. But the Brillante’s crew told Navy investigators that almost all the gunmen had lighter skin and spoke “an unidentified form of Arabic.” And the tanker’s black-box-style data recorder indicated that the vessel had traveled west during the incursion, when Somalia was due south. True Somali pirates, seamen of the hardest kind, would have noticed.

By late August, what remained of the Brillante was anchored in safe waters off the United Arab Emirates, towed there by another Greek-run company, Five Oceans Salvage, that had partnered with Poseidon. With the tanker finally secure, its decks bustled with small teams of inspectors taking measurements and photos. Among them were agents from the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service; if pirates were getting in the habit of burning commercial ships, the Navy wanted to know about it. They were joined by fire and explosives experts, people hired by the companies that owned the ship and cargo, and the insurers of both. Previously, a surveyor hired by Suez Fortune had argued the fire was caused by an errant pirate grenade. Now one of the explosives experts entered a space adjacent to the engine room, which had been drained and looked like the inside of a barbecue, and spotted an unmistakable bulge in a metal plate on the floor. It could only have been left by a bomb, he thought—something focused and powerful.

Scuttling or damaging a ship for the insurance money is, in some respects, an ideal crime: There might be no witnesses, no evidence, and no law enforcement. The odds of getting away with it are good. Even when an accident has the odor of foul play, Lloyd’s insurers almost always pay something. The unwritten law of maritime insurance is to avoid the unpleasantness of customer conflict and keep the premiums rolling in.

But if the Brillante wasn’t a genuine hijacking—if it was an inside job, with a coverup that extended to murder—then it had no precedent in scale or theatricality. Fifteen months after the attack, a second Brit in Aden died in mysterious circumstances. Roger Stokes, a soft-spoken lawyer and friend of Mockett’s, had tried to collect an unpaid Brillante fuel bill. On Oct. 7, 2012, his driver found him in his apartment, bleeding severely from a head wound. He expired on the way to a hospital. Stokes’s family believed his death was accidental. But in shipping circles, Stokes belongs on the list of those who have dealt with the Brillante and then found their life in danger.

In London, four months later, two groups of insurers were facing major Brillante claims and needed to decide whether to fight or write checks. The first claim concerned the oil cargo. The lead salvor, Five Oceans, was asking for about $30 million from a group of three underwriters—Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group, Zurich Insurance Group, and Allianz—as a reward for saving the payload. The second claim involved the Brillante itself. Suez, the owner, wanted ultimately to recover about $100 million, covering the hull, machinery, and forgone profits, plus interest, from a group of 10 companies led by Talbot Underwriting Ltd.

In February 2013, about 30 people gathered to discuss the case on the 11th floor of Lloyd’s headquarters, a landmark of modern architecture—an eruption of exposed steel gantries, undulating staircases, and ventilation pipes rising from the heart of the City, London’s financial district. Around a large table sat representatives of both insurance groups, their lawyers, and four police detectives who’d been invited to attend.

The cargo insurers were reluctant to pay, they explained, adding that if the City of London Police intervened, they might be able to delay a decision. More time would be useful for their private investigators, who were still tracking down witnesses. But a representative from Royal & Sun, which had recently fought a nasty legal battle with a different Greek shipowner, expressed fears that the company could get a reputation for hostility if it faced off against another client. A few weeks after the meeting, the cargo insurers folded, paying out the $30 million to the salvors. (The insurers declined to comment.)

The Talbot syndicate took a more aggressive approach, denying Suez’s claim for the ship. Suez sued in response. To prepare for trial, the insurers sent investigators to the Middle East, to dig into the attack and salvage, and to Greece, to find out more about Suez’s owner, Marios Iliopoulos.

The investigators learned that one of Iliopoulos’s ships had been in trouble off the coast of Aden before. On May 26, 2009, a fire broke out in the radio room of a 90,000-ton oil tanker called the Elli. While the crew fought the blaze, the ship ran aground on a sand bank. Tugs pulled it clear, but three months later the Elli suffered an unexplained accident in the calm waters around the Suez Canal, splitting in half like a watermelon. The resulting claim, for about $35 million, was disputed by the ship’s insurers and ended up in litigation; the parties settled before trial.

The Elli’s chief engineer on the day of the fire was Nestor Tabares. Two salvage companies responded to its accidents. When the ship ran aground, Poseidon was first on the scene. And when it later broke in two, Five Oceans attended to the wreck.

Poseidon’s manager, Vergos, didn’t respond to more than half a dozen calls and emails to the company’s Greek office requesting comment. Five Oceans Managing Director Nikolaos Pappas said in an interview that his company’s only role in the Brillante case was to secure the ship, and that he’s unable to comment on the attack or what happened to the Elli. “It’s not for the salvor,” he said, “to play Sherlock Holmes.”

Marios Iliopoulos had kept his name out of the Elli litigation. He’d owned the tanker—as he did the Brillante—through a web of anonymous offshore companies. He’s probably 50 years old, is based near Athens, and controls one of the city’s fast-ferry services to Mykonos. In Greek media reports, Iliopoulos is known as “Super Mario” for his skill at rally-racing, a sport that involves hurling supercharged production cars along dirt tracks and mountain roads. It’s a pursuit defined by scenic locations, crowds of passionate fans, and fearless drivers, who risk a one-way trip off a cliff if they lose control.

Although trade publications indicate that Iliopoulos has owned as many as eight large ships at once, he was for years virtually unknown to his insurers, even as his vessels sometimes came to tragic ends. In 1994, the Iron Antonis, an aging freighter Iliopoulos owned with his two brothers, was due to be scrapped. The brothers sent it on one last journey, hauling ore from Brazil to China. It sank in a storm 2,000 miles west of Cape Town, one of the most remote places on the planet, killing all 24 of its sailors. Greek authorities charged the Iliopouloses with causing the deaths by negligence. Marios and Ioannis Iliopoulos were cleared, but their brother, Antonis, was convicted in 2001; the case was dropped on appeal.

In 2015, after more than two years of preparation, the Talbot insurance syndicate accused Iliopoulos of orchestrating the assault on the Brillante Virtuoso. “There was no attack by Somali pirates,” they said in documents filed in a London court. “Any such attack on the Vessel was staged,” they continued, “with the involvement and connivance of the Owner” and members of the crew—specifically, Captain Gonzaga, Second Officer Artezuela, and Chief Engineer Tabares. The insurers claimed the fire was strategic: started by a bomb in a chosen location, stoked by an accelerant and open airways, and intended to cripple the ship.

Talbot seized on inconsistencies in the sailors’ statements. According to U.S. Navy chat transcripts, the first account of the incident by a third party, the crew initially said the attackers had posed as their security team. Yet in subsequent statements—given in Aden, after Iliopoulos had arrived, as well as in Manila—the story changed. Gonzaga, Tabares, and Marquez, the sailor who let the men aboard, all said instead that the gunmen had claimed to be from “the authorities.” The revised account would seem to resolve a key logical flaw: How could Somali pirates have known the tanker was expecting an escort?

Seeking to establish a motive, the insurers said that Iliopoulos was deeply in debt, having borrowed $60 million or more to buy his ships, and that the Brillante was hemorrhaging money, in the red by about $4 million in the first six months of 2011. Talbot alleged that as his finances deteriorated, Iliopoulos began to plan the destruction of the Brillante. Iliopoulos responded by accusing the insurers of “unfairly and irresponsibly endangering my reputation.” He denied the “unfounded and wrongful allegations,” adding in a court statement: “I am a respectable businessman, welcomed by such individuals as the Archbishop of Athens and the Vice-President of Greece.”

In April 2016, Iliopoulos was summoned to a London courtroom to answer questions about an important pretrial issue: Electronic records from a company managing the Brillante appeared to have gone missing. The court was brightly lit, and lawyers for both sides lined up at long tables as Iliopoulos took the stand. With a scruffy beard, oily hair, and an untucked shirt that struggled to contain his ample figure, he looked an unlikely shipping tycoon. He spoke in Greek, through an interpreter. Accused of deliberately withholding the emails, Iliopoulos jabbed his finger in the air. He thumped the table and glowered across the courtroom at his opponents, ignoring questions and accusing them of having “committed crimes” in the course of their investigations in Greece. Judge Julian Flaux warned him to stop being evasive.

As the hearing stretched into a second day, an older woman with short, gray hair was watching from a chair in the back of the courtroom. It was David Mockett’s widow, Cynthia. She looked on as Talbot’s lawyer, Jonathan Gaisman, told the judge that someone had hacked into the emails of a Greek lawyer hired by the insurers. Those messages, he said, found their way to Iliopoulos. Turning to the shipowner, Gaisman accused him of ordering the hack.

Iliopoulos responded quietly. Staring at Gaisman, he told the lawyer that those allegations might draw “consequences.” Judge Flaux, a small man with thick glasses and a reputation for toughness, had heard enough. “You will not use this courtroom to threaten counsel or English lawyers,” he shouted down from the bench. “You will behave yourself!” When Iliopoulos left the stand, he apologized to Flaux, saying he was an emotional man trying to protect his reputation.

Iliopoulos strolled downstairs toward the lobby. There, waiting in the space between a set of metal detectors and the building’s glass doors, were four uniformed officers from the City of London Police. The tallest one spoke. “Mr. Iliopoulos, I’m arresting you for conspiracy to commit fraud,” he said, taking him by one arm. Eyes widening with surprise, Iliopoulos said nothing as the officers hustled him into an unmarked blue sedan. Iliopoulos was questioned for hours at a nearby police station before being released without charge.

The investigation into his involvement with the Brillante continues, according to people familiar with the probe, though its scope is narrow. Officers are focused on determining whether the insurance claim was fraudulent, which could carry a penalty of as many as eight years in prison.

Iliopoulos never received his $100 million. Judge Flaux denied his claim after the witness box confrontation, writing in a 2016 judgment: “Mr. Iliopoulos clearly lost his temper and effectively threatened the insurers and their legal representatives from the witness box in a disgraceful manner. … With this intemperate and menacing evidence, Mr. Iliopoulos lost any remaining shred of credibility.”

The underlying lawsuit, though, limps on: A bank that originally lent his companies money is entitled to continue it. Talbot has submitted evidence of what it says is yet more suspicious Brillante activity—a conspiracy to mislabel its oil to avoid tax.

In 2011, when Tottman, the London detective, returned from investigating Mockett’s death in Aden, he was immediately summoned to brief the British government in Westminster. Officials asked who’d set the bomb: Criminals? The government? Terrorists? In Yemen, Tottman said, it could be all three at the same time. In an interview, Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen from 2010 to 2013, agreed with that assessment. “Corruption was endemic in the military and the civil government,” he said. Strapped for cash, the Yemeni navy was also hiring its ships and men out for private security jobs in the Gulf of Aden, Feierstein added. “It was a time of complete political chaos.”

It’s only gotten worse. Yemen is in a state of near-anarchy, and building a murder case would be impossible for even a committed team of detectives. British police aren’t investigating Mockett’s death. Apparently, no government agency is. The only formal inquiry into his murder was held by a local coroner in Plymouth, Mockett’s hometown, in 2012; it recorded a verdict of “unlawful killing,” without identifying suspects. (Cynthia Mockett declined to comment.)

Source: Bloomberg

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U.S. transfers surveillance planes to the Philippines

MANILA (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday transferred to the Philippines two brand-new, single-engine surveillance planes, boosting the capability of its former colony to patrol sprawling maritime borders, including pirate-infested southern waters.

At a ceremony at an air base in Manila, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said two Cessna 208B aircraft were fitted with electro-optical sensors and other surveillance equipment to detect ships in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.

“These planes will give us more capability to patrol our seas and guard against intrusions,” Lorenzana said. “These are not spy planes, only surveillance aircraft, because they are not stealth.”

The military variant of the plane can operate for hours at an altitude of 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) and has a range of 1,000 nautical miles (1,852 kilometers).

The planes, worth about $2 million each, can also be used against Islamist militants in Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao. But the whole package costs $30 million, including the surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance (ISR) gear.

Philippine troops have been battling hundreds of pro-Islamic State militants who seized Marawi City on May 23, killing nearly 600 people and displacing close to 500,000 residents in Lanao del Sur.

Military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said the United States decided last year to transfer the planes under its $425-million Maritime Security Initiative to help Southeast Asian countries tackle regional security challenges, including China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The Philippines got more than 80 percent of the $49.72 million allocated in 2016 under the MSI program, a reward after Manila agreed to allow the United States access to its five bases.

Two Eagle Scan unmanned aerial vehicles will also be donated by September to help tactical units defeat Islamist militants.

In February, Washington also donated hand-held Raven drones to the Philippine Marines operating against the Abu Sayyaf militants on the southern island of Jolo.

The military said it had bought hundreds of 500-pound bombs and unspecified rockets from the United States to replenish its inventory, depleted by daily bomb runs in Marawi City.

Source: Reuters

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Singapore and Brunei may join sea patrols

“The idea of IS setting up base on local shores is a very real possibility, judging from the Marawi incident,” he said.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) involving Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines may soon include Singapore and Brunei, said Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

The Defence Minister said the patrols on the Sulu Sea would certainly be more successful with the participation of the two countries.

“The idea to include (Singapore and Brunei) was proposed a while ago,” he told a press conference after launching the Defence Services Asia (DSA) 2018 exhibition and conference yesterday.

“While there is no decision from both countries yet, my counterparts sounded positive the last time I spoke to them.”

Hishammuddin added that the main objective of TMP, which was launched last month, was to ensure that militant threats such as Islamic State do not use the Sulu Sea as their route to Malaysia and neighbouring countries.

“The TMP was also launched to combat sea piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery. It’s quite significant.

He added that on top of maritime rounds, the Armed Forces will soon conduct air patrols as part of TMP activities.

Hishammuddin, who is also Minister with Special Functions in the Prime Minister’s Department, said all 10 Asean Defence Ministers should gather in Manila to be briefed on what was happening in Marawi.

On DSA 2018, Hishammuddin said the event aimed to attract 1,500 companies and more than 42,000 visitors,

It will be held from April 16 to 19 next year at the Malaysia Inter­national Trade and Exhibition Centre here.

“In previous years, the event was held at the Putra World Trade Centre,” he said.

Among the highlights of the event will be a forum on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Cybersecurity and cyberdefence conferences and demonstrations are also planned, as well as a terrorism-themed security conference.

Hishammuddin said that since its inception in 1988, DSA has provided a consistent platform for governments and military outfits to come together and strengthen relations in the interest of promoting greater international cooperation.

“DSA has also been crucial in addressing security concerns, including counter-terroism, cybersecurity, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he said.

Next year’s DSA will be held alongside the National Security Asia 2018 international exhibition.

Source: The Star Online

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This is the moment the US Navy opened fire at Iranian ship as war looms

The USS Thunderbolt fired multiple warning shots at the vessel when it came within 150 yards, in the Persian Gulf yesterday (July 25).

US Defence officials said the boat was operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

It had approached the ship at a high speed despite warnings to stop including voice communications and sound signals.

In footage now released by the US Navy, a round of shots are heard being fired in the direction of the small boat.

The clip then cuts to another Navy vessel next to the Iranian ship.

A crew-member urgently calls in the details to his superiors about the stand-off.

It wasn’t until shots were fired that the vessel finally halted its approach, but still “lingered” in the area.

“The Iranian vessel did not respond to repeated attempts to establish radio communications as it approached,” US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.

“Thunderbolt then fired warning flares and sounded the internationally recognised danger signal of five short blasts on the ship’s whistle, but the Iranian vessel continued inbound.”

The incident will only raise fears of a potential conflict between the two countries, after White House adviser Rudy Giuliani warned the Iranian regime poses a bigger threat to the world than North Korea.

Last month, an Iranian vessel aimed a laser at a US helicopter in the international waters of the Strait of Hormuz in what was called “unsafe and unprofessional”.

And in January, Navy destroyer USS Mahan fired a burst of warning shots at four Iranian craft that were approaching at high speed.

Source: Daily Star

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Kenya calls for joint efforts to combat piracy in Africa

Kenya challenged African countries to establish an inter-agency coordination to help in the fight piracy.

James Macharia, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development said that piracy is still on the rise in the continent hence the need to domesticate anti-piracy laws for effective prosecution measures.

“It is important that a maximum continental collaboration is forged to help solve problems faced by most countries,” Macharia said during celebrations to mark Africa’s Day of the Seas and Oceans in Nairobi.

He noted that maritime crimes such as illegal arms, money laundering, unreported fishing, smuggling, theft of crude oil, smuggling and drug trafficking also require full attention from the governments.

“I believe that once these measures are taken into consideration by the governments, then the governments will start benefiting from the Blue Economy and help actualize Africa’s vision on wealth creation through sustainable use of Seas and Oceans,” said Macharia.

He said that African nations need to collectively address innovative solutions to maritime challenges that hinder maximization and sustainable use of the continent’s maritime space.

The CS called for the enhancement of security and safety of maritime transportation systems through sharing of information on preventives measures on hostile and criminal acts at sea.

On pollution, the official challenged government to take maritime pollution and dumping of toxic and nuclear wastes seriously by protecting populations given that the Blue economy sector promises a lot in transforming the countries.

In recent past, Kenya has embarked in expanding port capacity and expanding inland rail and road transport network as interventions aimed at inspiring the anticipated economic growth in the sector.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News

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NIMASA takes Anti-Piracy Bill to National Assembly

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, says the agency will present the Anti-Piracy Bill to the National Assembly soon to fight piracy in the nation’s waterways.

Peterside disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday on the sidelines of the celebration of African Day of the Seas and Oceans in Nigeria.

He said that the agency would be sending the Anti-Piracy Bill to the National Assembly as an Executive Bill.

“We have received assurances of accelerated passage of the bill and before the end of this year the bill will become a law and we will have legal backing to fight piracy and criminality on our water ways.

“There have been a lot of concern about piracy within the Gulf of Guinea and Gulf of Aden.

“The recent statistics published by the International Maritime Bureau based in Malaysia showed that there was a drop in incidents of piracy within our waterways.

“This is possible because of the few things we are doing with the Nigerian Navy, enhancing our intelligence gathering mechanism and inter-agency as well as inter-departmental collaboration,’’ Peterside said.

He said that the Blue Economy was the most recent concept in economy in repositioning the littoral states.

Peterside said that the Federal Ministry of Transportation had recently empanelled a committee to come up with a Blue Economy policy.

He said that Blue Economy could generate a lot of resources in terms of fishes, aquaculture, transportation, power generation, which would generate a lot of wealth for Nigerians.

The NIMASA chief said that there was need for Nigerians to take advantage of the Blue Economy.

Rear Adm. Ferguson Bobai, Chief of Training and Operations, Naval Headquarters, also told NAN that there was need for continuous inter-agency collaboration to enable all the agencies to achieve quick results in their responsibilities.

Bobai commended NIMASA’s efforts in taking bold steps in working toward making the Anti-Piracy bill a law.

Speaking on the celebration of African Day of Seas and Oceans, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas, said NIMASA being the government regulatory agency, should promote maritime safety and develop indigenous commercial shipping.

Ibas said that NIMASA’s functions highlighted the need for synergy among maritime regulators and law enforcement agencies operating in Nigerian maritime domain.

The CNS, who was represented by Bobai, commended NIMASA for positively projecting Nigeria’s image within the international maritime community.

He said that a team would be going round to sensitise stakeholders on Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures on Arrest, Detention and Prosecution of Vessels and Persons (HOSP-AD&P).

Ibas said that this would go a long way in ensuring seamless operationalisation of the document through the adoption of common procedures and practice in facilitating good maritime governance.

“`With the collaboration of the Ministry of Justice, Defence Headquarters and NIMASA, the HOSP-AD`&P was launched on Jan. 26, 2017.

“The Celebration of African Day of the Seas and Oceans will enhance the attainment of Code of Conduct for repression of piracy and illicit activities at the sea adopted by the Heads of Government of ECOWAS.

“Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) is created and developed as a tool to address Africa’s maritime challenges for sustainable development and competitiveness.

“AIMS also seeks to foster more wealth creation from Africa’s oceans, seas and inland waterways by developing a thriving maritime economy and realising the full potential of sea-based activities, ‘’ Ibas said.

In his remark, the Chairman of the occasion, Mr Norrison Quakers, SAN, attributed attitudinal and disposition as the greatest challenges facing Africans.

Quakers said that there was need for Africa to have the political will to ensure quick facilitation of applicable laws.

He urged African countries to minimise damages, adding that Africa should ensure enforcement of ocean protection against toxic wastes and other dangers in the ocean.

Quakers said that there was need for an institution to be funded independently to discharge its statutory functions.

He, however, encourage growth of 11African countries to take full advantage of the maritime domain.

The Executive Director, Operations in NIMASA, Mr Joseph Fashakin, commended all agencies in support of NIMASA’s commitment to ensure Nigeria’s maritime domain was free and safe.

Source: PM News

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