Abu Sayyaf frees 2 abducted Indonesians who are now with Sulu gov

Two Indonesians abducted near Taganak Island in Tawi-Tawi in November 2016 had been freed by their Abu Sayyaf captors in Sulu, the military said Sunday.

A military report said Indonesians La Utu Bin La Raali and La Hadi La Edi were handed over to Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan on Friday.

Tan told the Inquirer in a text message that the Indonesians were only brought to him but he did not know the circumstances surrounding their freedom.

Rear Adm. Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao, said the two Indonesians were boat captains of fishing vessels and they were kidnapped off Taganak Island on Nov. 5, 2016.

According to Medina, Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, received a telephone call from former Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan Sr. who said that two Indonesian kidnapped victims were brought to his house in Barangay Asturias, Jolo, Sulu by a concerned citizen.

He said the two freed kidnap victims were immediately fetched by operatives from the Joint Task Force Sulu for medical examination and custodial debriefing.

The military had been trying to free the remaining kidnap victims in Sulu, according to Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

Based on military records, nearly a dozen people – including foreigners – still remain in Abu Sayyaf captivity to date.

Galvez said the operation against the bandit group was continuing.

In September 2017, two Indonesians kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf on Nov. 19, 2016 walked free after a clash between the military and the bandits in Sulu.

Saparudin bin Koni, 43, a boat skipper, and his deputy, Sawal bin Maryam, 36, were on a public utility vehicle when spotted by soldiers at a checkpoint in Barangay Bunot in Indanan, Sulu.

The sailors were among foreigners snatched by the Abu Sayyaf from the waters bordering the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The activities of the Abu Sayyaf on the borders of the three countries had prompted defense officials from the three countries to craft a plan to combat kidnappings and other international crimes.

Last Jan. 9, the Philippines and Indonesia agreed to conduct joint security patrols at the Celebes Sea and to establish additional border stations to further boost security and to counter international terrorism and transnational crimes in Southeast Asian region.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) and his Indonesian counterpart, Rear Adm. Didik Setiyono of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, have also agreed to look into measures to improve the safe passage of citizens of both countries, including those fishing in international waters.

The signing of the agreement was held at the end of the two-day 36th Republic of the Philippines-Republic of Indonesia (RPRI) Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference held in Davao City.

The meeting was held nearly a week after President Rodrigo Duterte met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi here, during which they also discussed defense cooperation in the porous borders at the Celebes Sea.

“As both our countries continue to face diverse security issues, our shared interest and commitment in addressing these concerns have not just deepened our alliance and collaborative engagement but also contributed in achieving a more peaceful and more stable Southeast Asian region,” Madrigal said.

According to Madrigal , various activities during the two-day event have enhanced the capabilities of the two military forces to respond to various security threats in the region, particularly that of terrorists.

Setiyono said Jakarta would be building more border crossing stations (BCS) to improve the security on its side of the border, although he did not give a figure as to how many Indonesian-controlled BCS currently exist.

For the Philippines, the military maintained three BCS off Mindanao – in Governor Generoso, Davao Oriental; and on Sarangani Island in Davao Occidental; and in the island-province of Tawi-Tawi, according to Maj. Ezra Balagtey, the Eastmincom spokesperson.

Speaking through an interpreter, Setiyono said they have also agreed to draw up mechanics on how to protect fishermen from both countries as they make their living in the high seas between Mindanao and the northern islands of Indonesia.

Both military officials stressed the joint committee had strengthened the relationship between the two countries and deepened their cooperation in matters of regional security.

Madrigal said such cooperation was seen to benefit the armed forces of the two countries in “making them ready and more capable to respond to security threats in the region.”

“Through coordinated patrols and intelligence-sharing (with the Philippine military) we hope to contribute in maintaining regional security in our side of the border,” the Indonesian naval officer said.

The joint committee also agreed on enlisting other military units as well as government agencies in their respective countries and to set up a definite hotline between their naval commanders “in order to immediately address developing situations and other challenges of the current times,” the two officials said.

Madrigal said maritime cooperation between Manila and Jakarta has been instrumental in stemming the flow of contraband and in interdicting suspected international terrorists who used the porous sea border between the southern Philippines and Indonesia.

He did not identify those suspected terrorists apprehended in the borders, though.

Philippine agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Bureau of Customs (BoC), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), among others, would be tapped for the Border Committees.

Madrigal and Setiyono said they were also eyeing a review of the 1975 Border Patrol and Border Crossing Agreements and would seek to recommend amendments to its provisions to improve maritime security cooperation between the two countries.

Source: Inquirer.net
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Cement carrier attacked by Somali pirates

Vessel and crew are reported safe as attacking mother ship backs away in Gulf of Aden.

A cement carrier was attacked Sunday by pirates in the Gulf of Aden but has been reported as safe in the high-risk area off of Somalia.

The 9,146-dwt NACC Valbella (built 1992) was approached by the mother ship north of Somalia’s eastern tip, according to information provided by maritime security provider LSS’ Special Anti Piracy Unit (SAPU).

The Panama-flagged vessel is owned by Nova Marine Carriers, according to Clarksons.

The incident took place at 20:30 (East Africa Time Zone) 90 nautical miles southeast of Mukallah, a seaport and the capital city of Yemen’s Hadhramaut governorate.

It was destined for the Philippines province of Cebu by 5 February, according to VesselsValue.

An armed SAPU onboard the Valbella exercised its Rules for the Use of Force, first firing a warning flare, which was ignored, and then warning shots.

The attacking mother ship responded by firing against the vessel, prompting the SAPU to fire a second volley of warning shots.

In response, the pirate vessel reduced speed and altered its course.

United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations have been alerted of the incident, LSS said.

The Valbella and crew are safe, LSS reported.

A few days ago, TradeWinds reported that the 11,999-dwt product tanker Barrett (built 2005) owned by Union Maritime and its 22 crew hijacked off West Africa a week earlier were released.

The Barrett was let go after a Gulf of Guinea piracy incident lasting six days. All crew are safe back in Lagos, Nigeria, the UK shipowner said.

The ship was attacked while at anchor off Benin, West Africa when communications were lost on the morning of 10 January.

Source: Tradewinds

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Pirate Attack- 90NM SE of Mukallah

On 21 January 2018 at 20:30 UTC. A Merchant vessel approached by a Mother ship at position 13⁰32,4’N 050⁰27,75’E, armed SAPU onboard used warning flare and fired warning shots, the approaching mother ship returned fire towards the vessel and the AST fired second warning shots.

Said boat reduced speed and altered course.

Vessel and crew are safe.

Source: SAPU onboard safeguarded vessel in HRA

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41 Somali pirates finally sent home in special chartered flight

The first batch of 41 Somali pirates was deported on Friday from among the 117 caught in Indian waters in 2011 and freed recently. A special chartered flight was arranged by the Somali embassy, a relief for the police, who did not know what to do with the penniless pirates after their release.

The remaining pirates continue to linger in different jails, including the one in Taloja, as they have nowhere to go. Many of the 41 sent home had been spending their days loitering near the Yellow Gate police station since the completion of their seven-year term. Some of them had even started staying inside the police station.

“Today the first batch of 41 Somalis was deported and now the embassy plans to send the second batch soon,” DCP (port zone) Rashmi Karandikar.

On March 12, 2011, officers on the navy ship Kalpeni, which was on anti-piracy patrol duty off the coast of Lakshadweep, were appraised that a pirate attack had taken place on the merchant vessel Sagittarius Leader. The prosecution stated that after fighting off an attack from the pirate vessel, which involved firing from machine guns, the pirates agreed to surrender.

They were convicted by a sessions court on August 2, 2017, under various charges. The court had directed that they be deported once they completed the remainder of their prison term.

The police said the Somali embassy had to be informed about the situation as the pirates were not legal immigrants.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News

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More piracy, robbery cases in Malacca and Singapore straits

The nine incidents last year mirror the increase in such occurrences in the rest of Asia

More piracy and armed robbery incidents took place in the straits of Malacca and Singapore last year, a situation that mirrors the increase in such cases in Asia.

There were nine such incidents in the straits last year, compared with two in 2016. For Asia as a whole, 101 piracy and armed robbery incidents against ships were reported last year – a 19 per cent increase over the 85 in 2016.

Of the nine in the straits, eight occurred in the Singapore Strait, and one in the Malacca Strait. Most of the cases were carried out after dark by four to six perpetrators in small boats.

“The possible reasons for the increase in the number of incidents (in the Singapore Strait) could be lower surveillance by littoral states, and complacency of ship crew,” said an annual report by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCaap) Information Sharing Centre, which was released yesterday.

But the centre’s executive director Masafumi Kuroki said the figures should not cause alarm, given that the situation has improved significantly since the late 1990s, when the area was a hotbed of piracy.

“The regional coordination (among the littoral states) is working well, particularly as the Malacca Strait was once considered a very dangerous area, but now, they have almost no incidents there,” he said.

“Singapore is playing an important role in terms of coordinated patrols with its neighbours, and has to play an important role for its own interest.”

Mr Kuroki added that the patrols were a key factor for the long-term improvement in sea safety.

In 2004, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia embarked on trilateral coordinated patrols in the Malacca Strait aimed at stamping out piracy.

Research fellow at the Maritime Security Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Collin Koh said: “It is simply the persistent capacity shortfalls of many regional maritime forces, having to keep up with various challenges across multiple maritime areas such as illegal fishing and smuggling. This makes it difficult to keep such piracy incidents consistently low.”

Mr Kuroki hosted a media briefing yesterday at the Pan Pacific Orchard Hotel, at which the results of the annual report were presented.

Almost half the world’s total seaborne trade passes through the straits of Malacca and Singapore each year.

Of the 101 incidents in Asia last year, 84 per cent, or 85 cases, were armed robbery against ships, while the other 16 per cent were piracy cases.

Areas of concern flagged by the report include the continued abduction of crew in the Sulu and Celebes seas, although the number of such incidents has fallen from 10 cases in 2016 to three last year. Hijacking of ships to steal oil cargo is also of concern, with three incidents last year.

Mr Kuroki said: “While the number of incidents in 2017 continues to be among the lowest in the past decade, the increase that occurred over the last year is a reminder that there is no room for complacency in the fight against piracy and armed robbery against ships, and underscores the need for enhanced vigilance among all stakeholders.”

The incidents are collected from designated government agencies from ReCaap’s 20 member states, which include 14 Asian countries such as Singapore, India and the Philippines. The Maritime and Port Authority is Singapore’s designated agency.

Source: The Straits Times

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Shady triangle: Southeast Asia’s illegal fuel market

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – An alleged oil heist in Singapore that has already led to 20 arrests, the seizure of at least one tanker and allegations that thieves siphoned thousands of tonnes of fuel from Shell’s biggest refinery is shining a spotlight on an illegal trade worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide.

Working routes in a triangle of sea anchored by Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore and encompassing the oil facilities of Malaysia, the smugglers take advantage of a difficult-to-patrol sea and enticing black market prices, experts say.

The suspects in the latest case are accused of stealing oil from Royal Dutch Shell’s (RDSa.L) Pulau Bukom refinery, often during business hours, and distributing it around the region.

Several of the men charged worked for Shell. Employees of a major Singaporean fuel trading company and a London-listed business that inspects and certifies cargos have also been charged.

“Siphoning off fuel is a common thing in Southeast Asia. There is a huge black market for it,” said Ben Stewart, commercial manager of the shipping security firm Maritime Asset Security and Training, which has helped authorities in the region fight fuel theft and smuggling.

Singapore is by far the world’s biggest ship refueling port, and Southeast Asia’s petroleum refining hub. Hundreds of vessels pass through the small city-state’s waters every day.

Security officers say the sheer amount of traffic makes checking every ship impossible, opening the door to illegal trade.

In most cases, oil is discreetly siphoned from legal storage tanks and sold into the black market. But there have also been thefts at sea and even hijackings of entire ships to steal their fuel.

Data from the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), based in Singapore, shows more than half of the serious shipping incidents reported in the past year have occurred off the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula.

Some officials put the value of the illegal trade in Southeast Asia at $2 billion to $3 billion per year. But Yousuf Malik, principal at security consultancy Defence IQ, estimated about 3 percent of Southeast Asia’s consumed fuel is sourced illegally, worth $10 billion a year.

“The scale of the illegal oil trade varies with oil prices – when oil prices are high, so is the level of smuggling,” said Praipol Koomsup, former Thai vice minister of energy and professor at Thammasat University.

Crude oil prices LCOc1 have risen by more than 50 percent since mid-2017 to about $70 per barrel, the highest level in over three years. That increases the black market demand in poorer Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and Thailand.

OPEN SEA FUEL STATIONS

Several fuel traders told Reuters that the illegal sale of fuel is common enough that companies plan for losses of 0.2-0.4 percent of ordered cargo volumes.

Stewart said one common method of theft involves a simple fudging of paperwork at sea: captains overstate how much fuel their ship is using, then sell the excess.

Sometimes entire ships are captured for their fuel cargo.

When fuel is stolen on such a large scale, it tends to be transferred to other ships at sea.

Legal ship-to-ship transfers frequently happen between oil tankers in registered zones. In the South China Sea, however, illegal traders use purpose-built ships – with some even disguised as fishing trawlers – to take in and distribute fuel.

According to ReCAAP, the waters around the remote Natuna Islands, which sit between peninsular Malaysia and Borneo but belong to Indonesia, are a hot spot for piracy and illegal fuel transfers.

The Atlantic Council, a policy research group, said many of the region’s illegal fuel operations had links to organized crime.

Police in Thailand and Vietnam said most illegal fuel comes into the country by sea, usually transported on mid-size trawlers in unmarked drums. Smaller vessels then bring the fuel ashore for sale on the street.

“The coasts of Thailand and Vietnam are vast, and its cities big. To catch or even trace the illegal fuel in this area is virtually impossible. That’s why it happens,” said one security source, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he was not cleared to talk to media about contraband operations.

THE BUKOM HEIST

Bukom, just south of Singapore, is an island serving just one purpose: 1.5 square kilometers (0.6 square miles) of tropical land devoted to the biggest petroleum refinery owned by Anglo-Dutch Shell. It can process 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

As global markets were gearing up for a new year in early January, Singapore authorities conducted coordinated raids across the city-state, arresting 20, charging 14 Singaporean and Vietnamese men, and seizing millions of dollars in cash. They even confiscated an oil tanker.

At the heart of the police operations is Bukom, where suspects, including current and former Shell employees, are accused of stealing oil worth millions of dollars in the past six months.

Singapore’s biggest marine fuel supplier, Sentek, last weekend saw its marketing and operations manager, as well as a cargo officer, charged in connection with the case.

Another person charged works for Intertek (ITRK.L) in Singapore, a British-listed company specializing in quality and quantity assurance, including for fuel products.

In a statement to Reuters, Shell said, “Fuel theft is an industry problem globally and not something that anyone can solve on their own.” The company added that it was working with governments and ReCAAP to address the issue.

A representative for Intertek was not immediately available for comment. Sentek declined to comment.

A lawyer representing one of the accused men said he had not yet had opportunity to obtain instructions from his client. Lawyers for some of the others charged were not immediately available for comment.

The Prime South, the small 12,000-tonne Vietnamese tanker police seized, frequently shipped fuel between Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City. The ship had also recently made stops at Rayong, Thailand.

Between ports, the tanker often switched off its transponder, which every merchant vessel is required to carry.

The scale of the theft was big enough that Shell did not think it could handle the case internally. Instead, in August the company contacted authorities, triggering one of the biggest police operations in Singapore in years.

Police investigations are ongoing. The charges in court documents allege the suspects in the Singapore case stole over $5 million worth of oil.

Globally, oil theft could be worth as much as $133 billion, said Malik of Defence IQ.

“Its sheer scale and the flows of illicit cash related to oil and fuel theft and smuggling exacts a toll on virtually every aspect of the economy,” Malik said.

Source: Reuters

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MR tanker ablaze off Indian coast

MR tanker ablaze off Indian coast

Crew rescued after Seven Island Shipping’s Genessa goes up in flames off Kandla.

All 26 crew have been rescued from a burning MR tanker off India.

The blaze broke out on the 46,000-dwt Genessa (built 2000) off Kandla on Wednesday, local media said.

Three Indian Coast Guard (ICG) vessels and nine tugs continued to douse the flames on Thursday. The fire is believed to have started in the crew area.

No pollution has been reported, according to Gujarat’s defence ministry. Two crew suffered burns.

The Seven Islands Shipping vessel is anchored about 15 miles off Deendayal port.

It is carrying at least 30,000 tonnes of diesel.

The fire comes nearly two weeks after NITC’s suezmax Sanchi burned and sank off China with the loss of all 32 crew, following a collision.

Source: Tradewinds

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Danish and Belgian commanders take lead of NATO naval groups

Danish and Belgian commanders have taken the lead of two NATO naval groups which help provide security at sea. Commodore Søren Thinggard Larsen of the Royal Danish Navy now leads Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1), which was under Norwegian leadership throughout 2017. A special event was held in Bergen, Norway on Monday (15 January 2018) to mark the handover.

Meanwhile a ceremony was held at Zeebrugge, Belgium where Commander Peter Ramboer of the Belgian Navy assumed command of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) from his Latvian counterpart. The group was recently involved in the safe disposal of historical bombs and mines found in European waters.

NATO has four standing maritime groups which are made up of ships from various nations, a demonstration of Allied solidarity. These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from exercises to operations. They also serve as an on-call maritime force as a part of NATO’s Spearhead Force – the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.

The Danish and Belgian commanders will lead their respective maritime groups through 2018.

Source: NATO

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Berge Bulk seafarer thwarts MDO theft

Alert member of bulk carrier’s crew catches two men with hose in ship’s diesel oil tank.

A seafarer aboard a Berge Bulk capesize bulker looks to have thwarted the theft of a large quantity of marine diesel oil (MDO).

The incident took place aboard the 180,000-dwt Berge Atlas (built 2008) off Caofeidian port, China in position 38° 46.25′ N, 118° 30.76′ E.

The incident took place on 30 December, but has only just been reported by the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

“While at anchor, the duty AB when on routine safety/ security rounds on deck, noticed some suspiscious movement on the main deck starboard side,” said ReCAAP.

“He noticed two perpetrators standing near the emergency generator room and immediately informed the duty officer immediately via a walkie-talkie.

“The duty officer noticed two perpetrators standing near the diesel oil (DO) tank manhole pulling out a hose from the said tank sounding pipe.

“Upon noticing that the crew was alerted, the perpetrators pulled out the hose from the surrounding pipe and jumped into the small boat on the starboard quarter of the ship.”

The boat is reported to have then steered away from the ship at full speed. It was later discovered that 1.9-cbm of MDO had been discharged.

Source: Tradewinds

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Crew of Hijacked Product Tanker Released

Tanker operator Union Maritime reported Wednesday that the product tanker Barrett has been safely recovered from hijackers off Benin, West Africa.

“Union Maritime can confirm that the MT Barrett has been released after a Gulf of Guinea piracy incident lasting six days. All crew are safe. We are extremely grateful to the many parties that assisted in achieving the successful resolution of this incident,” the firm said in a statement.

The Barrett was at anchor off Benin on January 10 when communications were lost. Union Maritime activated a response plan and alerted the authorities, but the nature of the incident was not clear until January 12, when the hijackers made first contact. Union Maritime said that a “resolution process” ultimately led to the release of the vessel and her crew on January 16. She is now at anchor off Lagos.

Piracy is a common occurrence in the Gulf of Guinea, where criminal groups based in the Niger Delta have the capability to raid shipping far out to sea. Armed robbery is also a frequent problem; in the latest instance, on January 15, the crew of an anchored tanker off Lagos noticed an unauthorized boarding in progress. They raised the alarm, sounded the ship’s whistle continuously, switched on all lights and directed their search lights towards the robbers. The suspects aborted the boarding and left the ship.

Niger Delta Avengers threaten new attacks

On Wednesday, the militant group known as the Niger Delta Avengers threatened new attacks on oil installations in the Gulf of Guinea. The targets include facilities operated by multinational oil companies, including Bonga Platform, the Agbami FPSO, the EA Field and Akpo Field, along with unspecified assets of the Nigerian firm Brittania-U.

“We mean it when we say [the oil installations] shall dance to the sound of the fury of the Niger Delta Avengers,” the group threatened. “Good a thing the ocean is wide enough to accommodate as many wreck as possible [sic].”

The Avengers said that recent civil strife in Nigeria makes this an ideal time for reform, and its main demand “is for the government to ‘restructure this country.'” In the past, the group has also demanded a greater share of Nigeria’s oil revenues.

The Niger Delta Avengers have had success in striking offshore facilities before. In May 2016, they attacked a Chevron platform off the Escravos Bar, leading to a shut-in and a spill. In October of the same year, the Avengers announced that they had suspended further attacks; however, they rescinded this yearlong ceasefire in November 2017.

Source: The Maritime Executive

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