Anti-piracy patrols adrift in terror-targeted waterway

The Sibutu Passage between Malaysia and the Philippines has emerged as Asia’s most dangerous waterway as Islamic terror groups target seaborne trade

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have started joint patrols against pirates terrorizing shipping in the deep water Sibutu Passage, but limited resources and legal obstacles are already rocking the boat.

Kidnappings: Monarch begs Navy to impose curfew on waterways

The immediate past Chairman of Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, King Joshua Igbagara, has appealed to the Nigerian Navy to impose a curfew from 7:00pm to 6:00am to check kidnappings on the waterways.

The first-class monarch made the plea on Tuesday in his palace at Isoni community in Sagbama Local Government Area of the state during a free medical outreach organised by the Central Naval Command with headquarters in Yenagoa, the state capital.

Igbagara lamented that the act of kidnapping on the waterways had reached a worrisome level, especially when travelling from Southern Ijaw LGA enroute Sagbama area of the state.

According to the traditional ruler, the rampaging kidnappers usually carried out the heinous act mostly at nights, reasoning that if water movements were restricted from 7:00pm to 6:00am, kidnapping would be reduced to its barest minimum.

He thanked the Nigerian Navy for choosing his community for the free medical rhapsody, promising to work with the security agencies by urging his subjects to volunteer useful information to help fight crimes in the area.

Responding, the Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Admiral Abubakar Al-Hassan, said the command would look into the monarch’s request holistically.

He, however, added that the state government would be involved before taking a necessary action on the matter to avoid infringing on human rights of the people.

The FOC said he and his team were in the community to render medical assistance to the needy and the less privileged in line with the corporate social responsibility of the Nigerian Navy to its host communities.

Al-Hassan said the primary constitutional role of the Navy was to maintain maritime safety and integrity, including the fight against oil theft and other criminal activities.

He said the medical rhapsody was to foster cooperation between the Navy and the host communities, especially the rural dwellers that did not have access to medical services.

He called on the people to help the Navy with intelligence information to enable the military outfit to smash oil thieves, sea pirates and kidnappers in order to make the waterways free for the users.

He noted that the cases of pipeline vandalism and illegal oil bunkering had reduced drastically following routine patrols of the creeks by operatives of the Nigerian Navy in collaboration with other security agencies.

Source: Punch


Staying nimble amid maritime threats

Eleven countries have come together in an exercise to share information about maritime security challenges in the region.

Called South-east Asia Cooperation and Training (Seacat), the two-week maritime security exercise co-hosted by Singapore and the United States has the largest number of participants this year.

Myanmar and Sri Lanka are taking part in the annual exercise for the first time, joining the hosts and Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The exercise started on Aug 21 and will end on Friday.

Now in its 16th year, it is being conducted from the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Changi Command and Control Centre at Changi Naval Base – the eighth consecutive year it has been held there.

The exercise aims to increase multilateral cooperation and information sharing among navies and coast guards across South and South-east Asia.

It features a series of tailored workshops, information exchanges and boarding operations at sea that rehearse scenarios relating to piracy, sea smuggling and maritime domain awareness.

In a press briefing at Changi Naval Base on Monday, Rear-Admiral Donald Gabrielson, commander of the US’ Logistics Group Western Pacific based in Singapore, said that among other things, the skills learnt could be applied to a variety of threat scenarios, including terror threats.

Teams from different nations receive training at sea on seven boarding operations, where multinational liaison officers identify vessels suspected of illegal activities and alert naval forces out at sea to track and defuse these maritime threats, if necessary.

One of these operations was the compliant boarding of cargo ship Sunny Queen by a Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Accompanying Sea Security Team yesterday.

The RSN’s Maritime Security Task Force, whose work includes daily patrols, boarding and escort operations in the Singapore Strait and sea lines of communications, was also involved in the exercise.

On Monday, Rear-Adm Gabrielson also talked about how longstanding international norms and agreements should be respected. This was in the light of concern over “a movement to upset the ability of many nations in the region to operate in a way… that we end up with a system that really is unilaterally advantaged and not fairly so”.

He said: “It’s important for everyone who has an interest in the region to do their part to understand that if the world does not come together to protect its own interests, then China will do everything it can to protect what it sees as its interests, at the cost of anyone else.”

Rear-Adm Gabrielson did not rule out the possibility of North- east Asian countries being involved in future Seacat exercises, but said there were some logistical challenges.

“Having said that, the ability to share and operate on international maritime issues is always a good thing,” he added.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News


Japan, UN group to work to combat pirates in Philippines

Japan is set to join hands with a U.N. organization in combatting pirates belonging to an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines, it has been learned.

The Islamic extremist group Abu Sayyaf, which is apparently loyal to the Islamic State (IS) militant group, has attacked numerous commercial vessels off the Philippines. As part of its efforts to step up countermeasures against terror in Asia, Tokyo will support maritime police forces in the Philippines and other countries to prevent extremist groups from expanding.

The latest move is part of an action plan on anti-pirate measures that Japan and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) signed in Vienna on Aug. 28.

The Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea in the southwestern Philippines are part of a route for commercial vessels transporting iron ore from Australia to Japan, China and other countries. In recent years, acts of piracy by Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups are intensifying in the area. According to the nongovernment organization Oceans Beyond Piracy, there were 38 cases in which pirates attacked commercial and other vessels in the area last year. In 21 of these cases, pirates kidnaped crewmembers and demanded ransom for the release of the hostages.

Meanwhile, there has been an ongoing battle between militant groups including Abu Sayyaf and government forces since May, following an attack on the stronghold of a high-ranking member of Abu Sayyaf, who is known as the IS leader in Southeast Asia, on Mindanao in the southern Philippines. It has been pointed out that the Philippines could be a hotbed for the IS.

Concerned about terrorists entering Japan prior to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, the country is poised to cooperate with the UNODC, which has expertise in combatting pirates off Somalia, in anti-terror measures off the Philippines. The joint forces will provide maritime police in the Philippines and surrounding countries with effective methods for identifying and chasing pirate ships to help them crack down on pirates.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News


Maritime security: NIMASA moves to achieve 100% compliance to ISPS Code

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said on Monday in Lagos that the agency is determined to ensure that all ships and ports facilities in Nigeria comply fully with the provision of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

The code, which was developed after 9/11 terrorist attack in US, is a proactive approach to preventing the reoccurence of terrorism attack through the maritime sector.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 5-day Advanced Drills and Exercises Workshop organised by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for NIMASA’s ISPS implementing officers, Dakuku Peterside, director general of NIMASA commended IMO for providing the agenecy with the needed technical support for ensuring effective compliance of Nigerian port facility.

DG, who was represented by Gambo Ahmed, executive director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, said that NIMASA has increased its compliance levels among ISPS facilities and also increased the awareness levels.

“We do not wish to rest on our laurels as the zeal to acquire 100 percent in all port facilities can only be achieved if officers are technically equipped and updated on international standards required for ISPS Code implementation.

Appreciating IMO for providing the platform for knowledge sharing, the NIMASA boss assured that NIMASA is determined to provide safe and secure ports for the conduct of maritime and economic activities on Nigerian waters.

Rotimi Fashakin, executive director operations of NIMASA disclosed Nigeria’s achievement has not only receieved the endorsement of peer review partners, but the commendations of the US Coast Guard.

“Nigeria was about 13 percent compliance when NIMASA was given the responsibility of maritime security as designated authority, but today, Nigerian port facilities under NIMASA, has achieved 90 percent compliance in 2017,” he said.

Noting that NIMASA has over 123 port facilities to cater for under tight budgetary allocation, Fashakin said that the agency has created a new crop of maritime professionals called the Recognised Securiy Organisations, who’s efforts complement that of NIMASA in carrying out mandatory ISPS Code inspection.

“This has generated employment in line with the Federal Government’s co0mmittment to create jobs and alleviate poverty.”

Brain Cranmer, IMO’s lead consultant, who disclosed that IMO earmark some funds, which is generated from other member countries for the purpose of funding training programmes in countries like Nigeria.

“Nigeria is a member of the IMO because is a maritime nation and member nations contribute to funding programme, which is used to help develop capacity among countries,” he added.

Cranmer, who stated that the programme was also designed to find out how far NIMASA has further its maritime security, said that the training will center on Advanced Drills and Exercises.

Source: Business Day


Can We Crack a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea

Territorial disputes over the South China Sea (SCS) have been a series of never-ending dramas. While the recent call by the U.S., Japan, and allies to produce a legally binding Code of Conduct (CoC) represents a positive confidence-building measure, any hope that it may constrain China’s moves in the SCS might be wishful thinking.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Arbitral Tribunal’s decision in July 2016 was intended to set up a legal perimeter for dispute resolution in the region. However, China’s policy of non-acknowledgment of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, non-participation in its proceedings, and non-acceptance of its decision and prescription have made judicial resolution of the SCS dispute an impossible mission.

Diplomatic squabbling and strategic friction continue. The legal defeat gave China a soft punch but failed to have any substantial impact on China’s land reclamation efforts. Indeed, despite the legal victory, the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte has since shifted course to work with China rather than insisting on the enforcement of the Tribunal’s decision.

Since the decision, the U.S., Japan, and allies have persistently expressed their displeasure through diplomacy and conducted Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) to protest China’s maritime claims in the SCS.

Despite this, China’s assertiveness on the SCS remains unchanged and its land reclamation sites are now a part of the region’s seascape. The same applies to Vietnam’s territorial claim and land reclamation efforts.

Against this backdrop, there are several key issues around a future code of conduct for the SCS.

First, one should not hold high expectations that the recent framework agreement between China and ASEAN nations will lead to a legally binding CoC. While the framework agreement is an important first step to set the tone for future negotiations, reaching a legally binding CoC will be a challenging task. It is highly doubtful that key claim contenders, particularly China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, would agree on anything which severely curtails their existing territorial assertions and privileges.

Second, although a CoC would be unable to resolve territorial disputes between contenders, the ASEAN-China framework agreement still represents a positive confidence-building step to prevent the dispute from escalating further. At a minimum, even without concrete command and control provisions in the follow-up document, the framework offers all concerned parties a starting point for continuous dialogue and shows a collective willingness to manage the dispute.

Indeed, one objective a future CoC could at least hope to achieve is to maintain the status quo. At best, a future CoC could set up mutually agreeable procedures for notification, consultation, and negotiation in maritime accident and crisis management as well as a workable regional mechanism to mitigate bilateral flare-ups.

Even so, while the idea of non-militarisation often touted by policymakers and in the media might be admirable, it is unrealistic: most island occupants have already achieved a fait accompli by fortifying their force structure to ensure full control of their claimed territory.

Third, China’s position appears straightforward. In light of years of rising nationalist sentiment, China is unlikely to undercut its position on territorial integrity. For China’s domestic audience, territorial possession, including in the South China Sea, is a material display of the country’s national pride, collective identity, and power status.

Rare is the state that would voluntarily relinquish something it values. In China’s case, the government would additionally have to contemplate the significant impact of public anger on its legitimacy of governance and regime stability.

Simply put, China will not compromise easily in the SCS, and the same level of reluctance also applies to Vietnam and the Philippines.

However, while our expectations must be guided by a realistic assessment of China’s interests, this is not always a cause for pessimism. China’s global “One Belt, One Road” economic strategy, for instance, requires the collaboration of Southeast Asian countries and also calls for strategic prudence in keeping the SCS status quo.

This means that while China will not modify its SCS territorial claims, it will also not allow the territorial claims of other claimants to change the status quo or threaten the safety of ships (at least non-military vessels) passing through the area. The ASEAN-China framework is, therefore, a timely means of easing tensions in this strategic waterway.

Given ASEAN’s long emphasis on compromise, consensus, consultation — the so-called ASEAN Way — in conducting its regional affairs, China has the ability to “divide and conquer” ASEAN members through financial incentives and political persuasion.

Every ASEAN member has its own interest matrix in policy deliberation, and the level of intensity and vulnerability surrounding the SCS issue varies among countries. In the end, it remains to be seen how well ASEAN members and China are able to jointly hammer out a CoC to mitigate the potential of regional confrontation, while also ensuring their own interests are protected.

Source: The News Lens


NIMASA set to implement new maritime security programme

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency is set to implement a new maritime security programme.

The Director-General, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, stated this when the Shipping Association of Nigeria paid him a courtesy visit in Lagos.

He informed the association that a lot of work was being done to ensure security of the maritime sector through the integrated maritime security infrastructure and waterways surveillance system, adding that no stone would be left unturned to achieve the agency’s objectives of zero tolerance for all forms of criminalities on the nation’s waterways.


How shipping industry is vulnerable to cyber attacks

The one industry that is increasingly at risk from cyber attack is the shipping industry. A gap in upgrading their infrastructure is leaving them vulnerable.

Here we have reports that suggest that ships in Norway will be sailing without a crew, just like how we have a driverless car. On the other side, we have news about the NotPetya ransomware attack that is crippling the shipping industry.

As hackers become more capable of breaking into any system across the world, Cybersecurity experts have advised shipping companies about the vulnerabilities they face.

Nearly every ship rely on electronic devices for their operation from communications to logistics. Software is required to run the engine from GPS to chart display information. Literally, everything happens on computers.

The shipping industry involves high-value assets and that is an added incentive for hackers because they know ships move valuable cargo on a daily basis. Security experts have expressed deep dismay at hackers attacking shipping firms, and they are successful in doing so.

While all this happens, we have seen how the shipping industry has remained relatively unprepared. Just a few days back, the security firm Cyberkeel checked the email activity of a shipping firm and was shocked at what it saw.

“Someone has hacked into the systems of the company and planted a small virus,” explains co-founder Lars Jensen. “They would then monitor all emails to and from people in the finance department.”

When a supplier sends an email asking for payment, the virus would change the content of the email and the account number, thus deceiving the company to transfer the money into the account owned by the cyber criminals. All this happens before the recipient of the email reads it

“The shipping industry needs to protect itself better against hackers — the fraud case dealt with by CyberKeel was just another example,” Jensen said. “In June, we saw how NotPetya ransomware created havoc and one of the hardest hit was Maersk.”

Now, as things get back to normal, Maersk has revealed that the total cost of dealing with the ransomware was US$300 million.

The consequences of a NotPetya cyber attack on the Maersk resulted in a shutdown of their port terminals. Today, shipping companies realize that NotPetya’s attacks on Maersk have pushed these companies against the wall. The shipping industry has finally woken up to the harsh reality that their operation is vulnerable to digital disruption.

Ships with more computers are potentially vulnerable, and it’s a great cause for alarm. Malware and ransomware are designed in a way that it spreads from one computer to another on a network.

“We know a cargo container, for example, where the switchboard shuts down after ransomware found its way on the vessel,” says Patrick Rossi, who works within the ethical hacking group at independent advisory organization DNV GL.

It’s obvious that the shipping industry, like many others, has a lot of work to do when it comes to cyber attack. The International Maritime Organization has introduced certain guidelines to educate ship owners about the vulnerability.

The shipping industry carries 90 percent of the world’s trade, and we have seen how Maersk has experienced significant damage to its business operation, thanks to NotPetya. Now before the world asks what’s next, it’s high time the shipping industry made a comprehensive effort to safeguard its systems.

Source: Ejinsight


Navy Chief: Navy to increase sea marshals for foreign ships rules out re-emerging of LTTE

VA Sinniah stressing a point at Wednesday’s media briefing

The navy on Wednesday announced plans to secure a greater role in providing anti-piracy security cover for international merchant shipping.

New navy commander Vice Admiral Travis Sinniah said Sri Lanka as a conflict-free nation in South Asia was well placed to protect international shipping between the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to Straits of Malacca.

He said they were seeking to increase commercial operations providing armed on-board protection to commercial vessels vulnerable to hijackings, especially by Somali pirates.

“We are friends with everyone and we have no enemies,” Sinniah told reporters in Colombo a day after assuming office. “We are well placed to provide security services to merchant vessels.”

He said the sea marshal operations initiated by the navy had been given over to a private company by the previous government, but it has since been taken back by the new administration.

Sri Lanka’s navy had increased its training “10-fold” after the end of the Tamil separatist war in May 2009 and was gearing itself as a true blue water navy after ending a 37-year war with Tamil separatists who operated their own sea-going wing.

Sinniah, who is a member of Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority, said there was no prospect of separatist Tamil Tigers re-emerging  and the country’s military was adjusting to the new situation of peace.

“We are now in a transition. Going form war to peace time,” Sinniah said adding that they were exploiting the commercial opportunities while increasing their patrolling and fighting capabilities across the board.

He said they will also adopt new tactics and strengthen patrols of the narrow strip of sea dividing Sri Lanka and India in a bid to prevent poaching in the rich fishing grounds of the island.

Fishermen from the two countries often stray into each others’ waters, creating diplomatic difficulties.

Source: The Island


Chronic state of hull insurance market may be its turning point

Generali’s decision to quit London may prompt other underwriters to firm their rate demands, which would mark the end of the 20-year softening of the market

How long does it take for a market to turn? Crude tankers are in the second year of a slide that may not reverse until 2018. Many sectors of the dry bulk business are only just beginning to recover from a multi-year slump that can be traced back to 2008, albeit with a few minor peaks since then.

Whereas for the offshore vessel market, anyone who tells you they know when it will decisively recover is both deluded and a fool.

Now pause a moment and reflect on the marine hull insurance market. It has been soft for about 20 years since the strong market of the early 1990s ran out of steam.

Year after year, underwriters have bemoaned the state of the business and their poor returns. Yet year after year, they have taken out their pens and signed up their shipowner clients at ever weaker rates.

Perhaps now we are coming close to a point of inflection.

As we reported last week, multiple sources in the market say Generali appears to have made a strategic decision to quit the London marine hull market and reassign staff to other lines.

The Italian insurance giant is keeping silent about its intentions, although it appears the group will continue to write some hull business in Italy.

A decision by one of the world’s biggest underwriters to draw a line under the main strand of its hull business would be a significant moment, and one that may prompt others to look hard at their own affairs.

Generali’s move would not be the first in the face of a very weak underwriting environment. Early this year, US underwriting group WR Berkley signalled it was suspending its marine business in London.

Several factors have contributed to the chronic state of the market. There has been a surfeit of capacity, as investors hunted for alternative markets amid an environment shaped by record-low interest rates.

Secondly, brokers have played a savvy hand negotiating good deals for their clients, with, in recent years, the knowledge that overall casualty numbers have been falling, even if the cost of the worst has risen sharply.

Further, for a significant period, weak hull premiums were supplemented by war risk premiums, amid the conflicts in the Middle East and particularly the impact of Somali piracy.

However, declining numbers of vessel hijacks in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean over the past five years means that class of business has now fallen.

Good luck — or the ‘GL’ factor — has also increasingly come into play as a major factor in underwriters’ performance.

As the number of underwriters subscribing for a share in each risk has fallen, the size of individual slices has increased. It means luck — good or bad — in missing or suffering claims can be a key issue in the ultimate profitability of an account.

Heightening underwriters’ concerns about the state of today’s market has been the most recent report from Lloyd’s that showed an unprecedented 17% weakening in the incurred loss ratio in the second quarter of this year.

It is the most severe deterioration underwriters can recall, apart from in 2011, which included the Costa Concordia cruiseship disaster.

A weak outlook for 2017 comes straight after three previous loss-making years, according to Lloyd’s loss ratios.

Alarm over the figures may prove a catalyst for more underwriters to firm their rate demands.

Jonathan Suckling, Arthur J Gallagher’s managing director for specialty risks, which includes marine, told TradeWinds earlier this year he thought it possible that poor returns would see a reduction in capacity.

That would not bring about a dramatic hardening of the market, but would mark the end of the softening.

Brokers believe shipowners with good claims records will continue to get hull insurance reductions, as the market improves its pricing mechanisms and continues to innovate. Multi-year deals may also soften the impact of any firming of the market.

However, we just now may be approaching a point that after 20 years the hull market may finally — finally — have reached that point of inflection.

Source: Tradewinds

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