Attacks against anchored ships continue in Indonesia
In its weekly piracy report for 22-28 May 2018, ReCAAP ISC informed of four incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia. Of these, one was a piracy incident and three were armed robberies against ships. The report included also an additional incident of armed robbery that occurred in West Africa.
Notable is the fact that three of the four incidents in Asia were reported in Indonesian anchorages. In its previous weekly reports, ReCAAP ISC has informed of similar incidents in Indonesia.
The first incident involves the heavy transport vessel ‘Bigroll Beaufort’, in late April, off Tanjung Berakit, Pulau Bintan, Indonesia. While at anchor, the bosun discovered the padlock of the paint store was broken and the door left open. Further investigation revealed that the padlocks of the garbage room, oxygen locker, acetylene locker and the bunker station were also broken and the doors were left open. However, nothing was missing. The crew was not injured.
On 16 May, the product tanker ‘Kirana Santya’ was anchored at Tanjung Uban Anchorage, Indonesia, when the master reported that a set of breathing apparatus (BA) compressor was found missing and the padlock was broken. Subsequent investigation and review of the footage from CCTV revealed the presence of two perpetrators at the poop deck. About 10 minutes later, a wooden boat appeared passing near the poop deck from stern. Another three perpetrators climbed up the ship from starboard side. The perpetrators were believed to have gained access to the ship unnoticed by the duty officer and A/B. The crew was not injured.
The bulk carrier ‘Clover Colossus’ was at Merak Anchorage, Indonesia, on 20 May, when three perpetrators armed with knives boarded the ship by climbing up the portside poop deck using a hook and rope. The duty A/B spotted the perpetrators who were approaching him from starboard aft of cargo hold 5. The perpetrators threatened the duty A/B with a knife when he tried to use his handheld radio to call for assistance. While the duty A/B was being held by one of the perpetrators, the other two perpetrators entered the accommodation area. Some minutes later, the three perpetrators jumped into a waiting boat and escaped. Some engine spare parts were stolen.
The fourth case is an attempted incident involving the bulk carrier ‘Vela Ocean’ anchored at Chittagong Alpha Anchorage, Bangladesh, on 6 May. While at anchor, the duty watchmen spotted seven perpetrators attempting to board the ship. The duty officer sounded the general alarm immediately, followed by a public announcement to alert crew of the situation. The crew was mustered at the ship’s office while the duty watchmen entrapped the perpetrators, resulting in a futile boarding attempt. The perpetrators eventually jumped overboard and escaped. The crew was not injured and nothing was stolen.
Included in this report was an incident of armed robbery against ship occurred in Lagos, Nigeria on 23 May 18. The incident was reported to the ReCAAP ISC by ReCAAP Focal Point (United Kingdom).
While anchored at Lagos Anchorage, Nigeria, a perpetrator was sighted on deck of the chemical tanker ‘Maersk Tangier’ and the crew raised the alarm. The perpetrator jumped overboard immediately and escaped in a waiting skiff, with another perpetrator on board. The crew was not injured and nothing was stolen.
The ReCAAP ISC urges ship master and crew to report all incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships to the nearest coastal State and flag State, exercise vigilance and adopt relevant preventive measures taking reference from the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.
North Korea’s High-Seas Fuel Smuggling Continues
On Monday, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported another instance of a banned ship-to-ship fuel transfer involving a North Korean vessel in the East China Sea.
The alleged sactions-busting activity took place on the night of May 19 at a position about 190 nm southeast of Shanghai, a region in which several other smuggling incidents have been spotted. A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C maritime patrol aircraft photographed the sanctioned North Korean vessel Ji Song 6 rafted up alongside a smaller, unidentified ship. Both had their lights on, and they were connected with hoses, leading the ministry to “strongly suspect” that they were engaged in a forbidden high-seas fuel transfer in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea.
The Ji Song 6 (photo above) is already subject to a UNSC worldwide port ban and asset freeze for her involvement in smuggling, and she is also on the U.S. Treasury Department’s blacklist of vessels suspected of sanctions violations. Her operator, Phyongchon Shipping & Marine of Pyongyang, is also a blacklisted entity. The identity of the other vessel could not be determined, but photos taken by the patrol aircraft appeared to show a Chinese flag on her bow.
The ministry said that it had shared its conclusions with the government of China and with the UNSC.
Source: The Maritime Executive
Houthi-IRGC ties on Washington’s radar again
The United States has imposed new sanctions on officials of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reflecting growing concern in Washington over ties between the Iranian paramilitary organisation and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The US Treasury Department released a statement on May 22 saying five Iranians had acted to enable Houthi rebels to launch missiles at cities and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. “The United States will not tolerate Iranian support for Houthi rebels who are attacking our close partner, Saudi Arabia,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
The United States said IRGC units supported efforts “to improve the Houthis’ ballistic missile capabilities.”
“Their actions have enabled the Houthis to launch missiles at Saudi cities and oil infrastructure,” Mnuchin said. “They have also disrupted humanitarian aid efforts in Yemen and threatened freedom of navigation in key regional waterways.”
Among those targeted by the United States’ new sanctions were Mahmud Bagheri Kazemabad, identified as the commander of an IRGC aerospace unit involved with missile command, and Agha Jaafari, named as a senior official in the unit. The two individuals allegedly oversee the “transfer of missile components and the deployment of ballistic missile specialists” across the Middle East in support of the IRGC’s activities.
One other IRGC official and two individuals were among those targeted by sanctions, which result in the freezing of any US-held assets and could be extended to other individuals determined to have provided material or financial support to those facing sanctions.
Washington’s move to sanction IRGC figures comes after warnings by Saudi Arabia in March following a Houthi missile attack on Riyadh.
Riyadh has been warning of Iran’s role in providing arms and support to the Houthis since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen. The Saudis say Tehran’s strategy in Yemen follows Iran’s pattern of interference in other countries in the region, such as its support for the Shia Hezbollah movement in Lebanon and interference in Syria.
The IRGC’s arming of Houthi rebels is a major source of concern for the Trump administration and likely played into Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the nuclear agreement with Iran.
At a media briefing in December, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley displayed Iranian weapons that she said were recovered from battlefields in Yemen.
“The nuclear deal has done nothing to moderate the regime’s conduct in other areas,” she said. “Aid from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to dangerous militias and terror groups is increasing. Its ballistic missiles and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones across the region. It’s hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.”
Iran has rejected accusations from Saudi Arabia and the United States that it provided ballistic capabilities and other military and financial assistance to Houthi rebels but the new US sanctions show that Washington is taking the threat seriously.
Throughout the conflict in Yemen, Houthis are reported to have obtained sea mines, anti-ship missiles and other explosive materials that increased their ability to threaten shipping lanes in the Red Sea.
“These types of weapons did not exist in Yemen before the conflict,” US Navy Admiral Kevin Donegan said in 2017. “It’s not rocket science to conclude that the Houthis are getting not only these systems but likely training and advice and assistance in how to use them.”
The conflict in Yemen plays a significant role in defining the balance of power in the Middle East. Yemen is particularly strategic for Iran for many reasons, including its position on Saudi Arabia’s porous southern border, its enduring instability and the high concentration of Shia Muslims there. These elements make the country a useful pawn in Tehran’s war with its Arab neighbours, notably Saudi Arabia.
The United States is aware of the need to prevent the region’s balance of power from shifting to Iran and its clients in the region, which is likely why it is increasing financial pressure, not only on Tehran but on its proxies and clients in the region and beyond.
The recent US sanctions follow a move May 15 to designate two top officials of Iran’s Central Bank as “terrorists” for their alleged role in funnelling “millions of dollars” from the IRGC to Hezbollah.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21 outlined a new policy towards Iran, declaring that unless the country complies with American demands, it faces “the strongest sanctions in history” and “unprecedented financial pressure” from Washington.
Ending military support for the Houthis in Yemen is one of the 12 demands Pompeo laid out.
Source: The Arab Weekly
Sabah dusk-to-dawn curfew extended for two more weeks
Sabah’s dusk-to-dawn curfew which ends on Sunday (May 27) has been extended for another two weeks.
It will now go on until June 12.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din said the curfew has been extended for another two weeks due to persistent threats at the sea fronts.
He said the 6pm to 6am curfew covers areas three nautical miles off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.
Ramli said according to intelligence information, kidnap-for-ransom groups and Abu Sayyaf militants are still trying to commit cross-border crimes.
“We also want to ensure the safety of the people of Sabah who use the waters and staying near the Esszone,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Ramli added that the curfew was to facilitate the enforcement and monitoring of boat activities in the area as well as establish a sense of security to nearby chalet owners and fishermen with the presence of a security team.
Source: The Star Media Group
Nigeria cancels maritime security contract
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled a $195 million deal with HSLI for maritime security after allegations of fraud and corruption.
Nigerian media report that Buhari cancelled the contract via a memo dispatched by his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, directing Attorney General Abubakar Malami, to terminate the contract and for the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) to investigate how the contractor obtained security clearance without an end user certificate.
Buhari also ordered HLSI Security Systems and Technologies to supply equipment equivalent to the $50 million upfront payment it received from Nigeria.
Nigeria on 30 October 2017 announced that it had signed a three-year $195 million maritime security contract with HLSI Security Systems and Technologies. Much of the contract was to focus on training Nigerian military and law enforcement agencies to combat maritime crime.
The contract apparently also included the acquisition of special mission aircraft and 12 interceptor boats for the Nigerian Navy, amongst others.
In January this year, Nigeria’s House of Representatives criticized the management of the Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for awarding the contract to HLSI, saying it is a breach of Nigeria’s internal security, and defies local content laws.
Another Nigerian defence deal that has come under scrutiny is for the supply of Shaldag patrol boats to the Nigerian Navy. In March this year Israeli officials arrested three Israel Shipyards employees over a suspected bribery scandal.
According to Haaretz, the chairman of Israel Shipyards, Samy Katsav, was questioned by police on 19 March and released to house arrest. Katsav controls 20.25% of Gold Bond, which is the parent company of Israel Shipyards.
Israeli officials are looking at the sale around ten years ago of two Shaldag patrol boats to the Nigerian Navy worth $25 million. The Nigerian Navy received at least four Shaldag Mk II patrol boats between 2009 and 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfers database.
Philippines upgrades navy amid Chinese maritime threat
The Philippine Navy is one of the weakest maritime defence forces in Southeast Asia, leaving the sprawling island nation of over 100 million people vulnerable to threats like China’s assertiveness in taking control of disputed territory, according to senior officers, including the top commander.
“A few days ago, we were surprised by the reports that the Chinese have embedded anti-ship missiles and anti-air missiles in three critical island features – Subi, Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs,” a Philippine naval officer told a maritime security seminar in Manila recently.
He went on to say the “logical next step” was deployment of J-11 strike aircraft with a range of 1500 kilometres, bringing almost the entire Philippine archipelago within striking distance.
“We have to upgrade the capability of the Philippine Navy so that we can protect our maritime waters because we are an archipelagic nation,” Philippine Navy chief Robert Empedrad told reporters afterward. “With a weak navy, we cannot protect it.”
With more than 7600 islands, the fifth-longest coastline in the world, and territorial waters seven times greater in size than its land area, the Philippines should be “a big maritime nation,” Empedrad said, adding it once was.
After World War II, the Philippines had one of the most powerful navies in Asia.
But over the past 60 years, the Philippine Navy became one of the weakest as the government focused since the 1970s on internal security threats posed by communist rebellions and Muslim insurgents, while relying on the US military to provide protection against external threats.
But that US shield began to crumble when the Philippine government in the 1990s ordered the closure of Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, respectively the largest US air force and naval facilities in Asia.
“Six decades later, we are one of the weakest (navies), even in the Southeast Asian region,” said Empedrad.
“Maritime nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore, and even Vietnam and Myanmar, have upgraded their naval capability, while the Philippine Navy went into obsolescence,” Empedrad said during the navy’s 120th anniversary celebration on May 22.
In 2006, the Philippine Navy began pursuing a plan to again become “strong and credible” by 2020 through modernising its equipment and improving training of its officers and personnel.
Under President Benigno Aquino, the Navy started acquiring more modern equipment, such as AW-109 helicopters, Landing Craft Heavy vessels donated by the Australian government, Hamilton class cutters from the United States, and multi-purpose attack craft.
But during Aquino’s presidency, China started to aggressively assert its claims in the South China Sea by driving away Filipinos conducting energy surveys in the Reed Bank, fishing at the Scarborough Shoal and in disputed areas of the Spratly Islands, and even Philippine coast guard vessels patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone.
And when Manila filed an arbitration case against Beijing in 2013 over disputed features in the South China Sea, China reacted by ramping up reclamation activities in disputed reefs while rejecting the territorial dispute settlement process allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatories.
In 2016, the Philippines won the case when the arbitration court ruled that China’s so-called nine-dash line theory – upon which China’s claims to almost the entirety of the South China Sea rests – had no legal basis.
Concerns about China
In recent weeks, international concern over China’s activities in the South China Sea have spiked again on news of their militaristic nature.
The reports include the landing of H-6K bomber planes on Woody Island in the Paracels; of other military planes landing on reclaimed land in Subi Reef, which is only 12 nautical miles from the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island; and on Mischief Reef, a feature clearly adjudged by the arbitration court to belong to the Philippines.
China has also installed military jamming equipment on Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, and anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems.
But at the navy’s anniversary celebration, Empedrad described actions underway to bolster the nation’s maritime defences.
These include the acquisition of five TC90 aircraft from Japan, and of the navy’s “very first missile capability,” mounted on multi-purpose attack craft.
“The aircraft has longer range that can effectively cover our vast maritime waters” in support of the nation’s land-based monitoring stations, Empedrad said of the TC90s acquired from Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force.
He also described the Israeli-built missile system as “very accurate,” providing strong deterrence. “I’m sure enemies that ply our maritime waters will be threatened.”
A Pohang corvette from South Korea may also be delivered later this year, the Philippine Marine Corps will receive amphibious attack helicopters early next year, two anti-submarine warfare helicopters with torpedoes will be operational next year, and two missile frigates are expected in 2020, the naval chief said.
While praising those acquisitions, former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said still more must be done to enable the Philippine Navy to effectively guard the nation’s territorial waters.
But he noted the difficulty given the size of the Philippine economy, about US$400 billion (K541.2 trillion), just a little more than twice what China will spend in 2018 just on its military.
Source: The Myanmar Times
FWN Rapide’s 11 kidnapped crew released
ForestWave reported that the eleven crewmembers who were taken hostage on April 21 off Port Harcourt, Nigeria and spent the last 4 weeks in captivity have been released and are now safe.
The crew are currently on their way home, while all of them have received medical checks and are in a relatively good condition.
ForestWave is extremely pleased to have been conveying this good news to all the families and friends of our seafarers.
Twelve crew members had been kidnapped, with the company reporting that pirates attacked the ship prior to entering the port of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
One of the twelve crewmembers kidnapped from the general cargo vessel ‘FWN Rapide’ was eventually found hidden onboard the vessel, according to an updated statement by ForestWave. The crew man was located during a search of the ship.
In an update last month, ForestWave informed that it managed to establish contact with the crew of the cargo vessel ‘FWN Rapide. The company confirmed that all remaining eleven seafarers were alive and together.
Watch: Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea offers many riches, but it also faces a multitude of interconnected maritime security challenges. As maritime piracy knows no borders, the nations around the Gulf of Guinea have organized themselves into a coordinated security effort, in order to combat crime.
The video, published by One Earth Future, provides an insight on how African states have organized themselves through the Yaounde Code of Conduct, signaling their commitment to multinational cooperation.
The human cost of piracy for 2017 in numbers
In its 2017 State of Maritime Piracy report, Oceans Beyond Piracy reports an overall increase in piracy incidents across the world’s oceans. A total of 1102 seafarers were affected by piracy and armed robbery in East Africa and 100 crew members were taken hostage in West Africa, while a total of 1908 seafarers were affected in Asia and 854 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Source: Oceans Beyond Piracy
EUNAVFOR: Houthi Attacks on Shipping May Continue
On Wednesday, the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates announced that they have destroyed two boats belonging to Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. The UAE asserted that the boats were threatening oil tankers. Two other small vessels managed to escape.
The action followed several weeks after a missile attack on the bulker Ince Inebolu off Hodeidah, Yemen. That strike damaged a topside ballast tank above the waterline, and the Inebolu safely navigated to the port of Gizan for evaluation and repairs.
On Wednesday, EUNAVFOR intelligence and security chief Maj. Tom Mobbs told Reuters that Houthi rebels based on shore or on land were “almost certainly” responsible for that attack, according to the latest assessment. “That is the natural speculation,” he said.
He clarified that the strike on the Inebolu was likely due to a case of mistaken identity, and she was unlikely to have been deliberately targeted. Previous Houthi attacks have focused on Saudi-allied shipping, and the rebels have asserted that the strikes are intended to harm the Saudi military coalition backing the Yemeni government in Yemen’s civil war. Houthi forces have been losing ground in the campaign, especially around the key port city of Hodeidah, which they have held since 2014. Saudi and UAE-backed forces have cut off several Houthi supply lines to Hodeidah over the past month, restricting the flow of ammunition and equipment into the region.
However, Mobbs warned that shipping in the Red Sea still faces the risk of an attack due to misidentification, even if unintended. Since the Yemen conflict continues unabated, the hazard to merchant shipping will continue, he warned.
“There are now a wide range of threats to shipping near the Horn of Africa that have been complicated by the conflict and instability in Yemen,” said Phil Belcher, Marine Director of INTERTANKO in a statement issued Wednesday. “We are advising our members to consider a more comprehensive security assessment to take into account other threats beyond traditional piracy emanating from the regional conflict in Yemen.”
Source: The Maritime Executive