How sub-Sahara African countries deal with maritime crime

The new edition of Stable Seas Maritime Security Index is released, attempting to measure and map good maritime governance around sub-Saharan Africa. This edition covers 30 exclusive economic zones (EEZs) around sub-Saharan Africa from the mid-Atlantic to the Gulf of Aden.

The new edition also scores the countries, depending on their performance. The scores have been concluded after reveiwing publicly available data, as well as extensive collaboration with African militaries and governments, international organizations, African and Western non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders.

Cape Verde and Namibia have the best score in the Index, with 72 out 100, followed by Seychelles and Mauritious with 70 and South Africa with 69.

The worst performance is recorded by Somalia with 36 out of 100, followed by Nigeria with 47, Benin with 48 and Liberia along with Congo with 49.

As the Index said, the waters in the Gulf of Aden and around Somalia, are among the least stable on the planet. Besides the threat of Somali pirates, a number military vessels have been targeted and hit by anti-ship missiles by militants in Yemen. These events can affect negatively international shipping traffic through the Red Sea, which is among the world’s most important global transportation checkpoints.

Moreover, the Gulf of Guinea probably faces the world’s most severe maritime security challenge. Tremendous natural resources, close to onshore violent non-state actors, and limited maritime law enforcement capabilities make countries vulnerable to piracy, crude oil-related crime, smuggling, and more maritime crime.

Source: Safety4Sea

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UAE-Backed Forces Prepare Assault on Hodeidah’s Port

On Thursday, reinforcements arrived for UAE-backed Yemeni forces as they prepare an assault to retake the seaport at Hodeidah, Yemen. Houthi rebels have been in control of Hodeidah and its port since 2014, and the coalition alleges that it is a conduit for arms shipments from Iran. The port also handles about 70 percent of Yemen’s imports, including most of its food supply, and aid groups have warned that fighting could interrupt the flow of relief to millions of Yemeni citizens.

“We are deeply worried about the situation,” said Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “Even before the fighting began, conditions in Hodeidah were some of the worst in the country . . . We have been off-loading food at the port and we are rushing in as many emergency stocks as possible while we can.”

Grande said that a cholera outbreak is at the top of relief groups’ concerns right now. “If the water system in just one neighbourhood breaks down, and if nothing can be done to immediately address the situation, cholera could spread with lightning speed,” she warned.

In parallel Twitter posts, the UAE’s embassies reported that the seaports of Hodeidah and Saleef remain fully operational.

The UAE, which backs the government of Yemen, said Thursday that it would only accept a full and unconditional withdrawal of Houthi forces from the city and its port. UAE foreign minister Anwar Gargash alleged that Houthis are “blocking the offloading of aid” at the port, laying land mines and destroying civil infrastructure in advance of the assault. Photos on social media appeared to show Houthi forces digging trenches in preparation for combat.

On Tuesday, the UAE-backed coalition captured the airport south of the city, a preliminary step in the coalition’s plans to retake the port. The three-day fight for the airport resulted in at least 40 casualties on the Houthi side. The remaining Houthi garrison in Hodeidah is believed to be small, in the range of 2,500 fighters, but a prolonged house-to-house fight for the control of the city could take months, analysts warn – with potential consequences for the civilian population and the operations of the port.

Source: The Maritime Executive

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Military rescues 2 ASG kidnap victims in Sulu

SULU, Philippines – Authorities rescued a mother and daughter from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Talipao, Sulu Wednesday afternoon, June 20.

Addang Tulawie and her daughter Edelyn were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf bandits at around 2:00 p.m. on the same day. It was identified that the abductors were members of an ASG sub unit led by Hatib Hajan Sawajaan.

Together with members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and barangay peacekeeping teams, the AFP Joint Task Force Sulu was able to rescue the victims.

Addang is a sister of former Talipao Mayor TambrinTulawie while Edelyn is a half-sister of incumbent Talipao Mayor Nebukadnerzar Tulawie.

The victims were sent to Kuta Heneral Teodolfo Bautista Hospital for medical check-up and trauma debriefing.

Joint Task Force Sulu thanked the cooperation of the community and the local government unit for the quick rescue of the victims.

Meanwhile, West Mindanao Commander Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega said they will not stop until the remaining 11 hostages of the Abu Sayyaf Group are rescued.

“We will run after them! We are confident that with the local chief executives’ and the peoples’ support in the municipalities of Sulu, we will finally rid the province of the ASG that has been spreading turmoil in the area,” Dela Vega said in a statement. – UNTV News & Rescue

Source: UNTV

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Pirates’ Strategies and Countermeasures in the South China Sea

Except for a brief spike along East Africa that gained national attention with the capture of Captain Richard Phillips—and resulting Hollywood movie—pirates remain active in the South China Sea and around the world.

The South China Sea averages about 150 piracy incidents per year but can see spikes of activity that push it up to 550. The exact numbers are hard to decipher because victims want to avoid time-consuming investigations, bad publicity, accusations of lax security, and higher insurance premiums.

The area is such a prime target for many of the same reasons there are disputes over islands. Almost 30 percent of worldwide maritime traffic travels through the area. This includes all of the European goods to China, and almost all of the oil from the Persian Gulf to South East Asia. The port of Singapore and its nearby strait sees a ship every four minutes. There are many small islands, narrow channels, and places to hide.

Pirates like Blackbeard, Mary Reed, and Steed Bonnet used similar geography off the outer banks of North Carolina to the same effect. Territorial disputes in the region often hamper enforcement and coordination. Finally, automation means that incredibly large tankers can have crews as little as 15 people, meaning that very small pirate crews can capture entire crews and gain lucrative prizes.

There are some differences in piracy based on regions. Around Indonesia and Nigeria, for example, most of them occur near ports. Malaysia witnesses attacks more on the high seas. The former two have a lower standard of living, so attacks usually come from poor fishermen seeking a little boost of cash and staples. Their targets are usually small ships with scrap metal, or small tankers with liquid fuel, as both are easier to sell on the black market. Under the cover of night, they use ropes and grappling hooks to climb aboard with knives and machetes. If alerted in time, the crews fight back, often with crowbars in nasty hand-to-hand combat.

Malaysia has more wealth, larger ships, and defensive measures, which requires more sophisticated methods launched by crime syndicates. The pirates usually get tipped off by unscrupulous crew members, port workers, or the government itself, and they already have a buyer prearranged. The pirates operate faster boats and their crews are armed with AK-47s and even some heavier weapons like rocket launchers. They quickly board at night, seize the ship, and set the crew adrift. Their cargoes are often in high demand. Because they get the fuel for free, they can quote really good prices to the refineries who don’t ask questions about the reason for the discount.

Overall, piracy is thought to result in $6 billion in lost revenue due to higher insurance rates, disrupted logistics, and longer shipping times. The added speed needed to outrun the pirates, for example, burns more fuel and adds almost $100,000 in fuel costs per day to the journey. The ransoms for captured crew members or profits from black market sales become a vital part of economies that are often in shambles, and provide steady paychecks for youths that have few other options to support themselves and their families.

There are countermeasures, such as stricter port security to prevent informants from tipping off pirates, as well as joint coast guard patrols. For instance, the Chinese have two ports in the Indian Ocean, near Pakistan and Djibouti. These are vital logistical hubs that can help their ships hunt down pirates. So their efforts are not simply sabre-rattling to scare the American public. It was a coalition of ships that vastly reduced piracy along Somali’s craggy coastline.

That being said, China often militarizes its coast guard, and given the multiplicity of territorial disputes, military missions would likely do more harm than good.

The best line of defense is a crew that is properly trained in defending against pirate attacks. Companies have hired additional armed guards, which help decrease the threat. But with such small crews, large ships, and tight profit margins that limit additional arms and security measures, they often get fewer guards than the situation demands. Despite these measures, we are likely to see more attacks in the future as shipping remains important, but economic factors drive the desperate to the water.

Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an intelligence analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book

“Decisive Battles in Chinese History,” as well as “Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.”

Source: The Epoch times

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Attacks On Vessels Place Nigerian Ports At Risk

Frequent attacks on vessels at berth have raised great concerns about security at Nigerian ports amid rising cost of freight.

YUSUF BABALOLA writes. In the last two weeks, Nigerian ports have been under attack from hoodlums who are taking advantage of the insecurity to strike on vessels at berth. Random attacks were reported in the Lagos Port complex, Apapa, Tin-Can island ports and the Port Harcourt port in Rivers State. Before now, attacks at berth are not reported at the port especially since the successful port reform of 2006 that led to the concession of ports into different terminals. The successful implementation of the International Ships and Ports Security (ISPS) code, also reinforced the already available security at the port creating an avenue of safety for vessels to call at Nigerian ports. However, recent report of attacks on vessels at anchorage has sent ripples of fear down the spine of stakeholders in the maritime sector, who believe the attacks could spike freight cost through increase in insurance premiums.

Series Of Attacks In the last few months, MV Pamyat; MV Asia Ruby, MV Aquata, MT Sichem New York, MV Kiana and MV Dino were randomly attacked at different times and terminals. MV Pamyat, with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number 8701040was attacked at berth 14, operated by ENL Consortium of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC), Apapa on March 2, 2018 when some bandits gained access into the ship with ease. MV Asia Ruby was attacked at 0415hours on April 24, 2018 at ENL, consortium on berth 8 of Lagos Port Complex (LPC) while discharging her cargo. The robbers carried out their nefarious act on the ship without resistance from anyone. The Tin Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) also in Lagos is not spared the robbery attacks. A report from the Port Security Officer (PSO) of TCIPC, indicated that at about 03:20 hours on Friday March 3, 2018, eight persons suspected to be armed sea robbers launched attacks onboard MV Aquata and MT Sichem New York, which were discharging cargoes at berths 2 and 1 operated by Josepdam of the port respectively. Preliminary findings revealed that a gang of sea robbers came through the waterfront in an outboard engine boat and launched attacks onboard MV Aquata where three of the robbers succeeded in climbing into the vessel while the remaining five were on standby inside their boat by the portside of the vessel. The crew watchmen onboard sighted one of the robbers at the paint stores and raised an alarm immediately.

However, when the terminal security and armed policemen on duty rushed onboard, they discovered that a watchman onboard was injured by one of the robbers before the criminals made an escape by jumping into the water. There was blood stain on the main deck of the vessel,” the PSO stated in the report.

Further findings revealed that in the wee hours of March 18, a group of sea robbers numbering about 20, gained access into Josepdam Terminal through the waterfront and headed to the terminal’s fuel dump. The robbers beat up and tied the security guards at the fuel dump before they connected a hose from their standby boat to evacuate fuel from the terminal’s fuel tank. The robbers, who reportedly operated unchallenged for more than an hour, succeeded in carting away about eight drums of diesel from the terminals.

Four days later and precisely on March 22, 2018, the robbers called at Josepdam again. This time, they launched an attack on a ship named MV Kiana. The ship, which was discharging its cargo of bulk sugar belonging to BUA Sugar Refinery, has Nura Shipping Limited as its agent in Nigeria. The robbers, as usual, stormed the ship using canoe, which they brought alongside the ship and gained access onboard with the aid of a rope tied to a hook. At the Rivers Port in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the sea robbers are also having a field day. It was revealed that a ship, MV Dino, laden with 20,721MT of bulk wheat was attacked about 80 nautical miles to the Fairway Buoy on her way to PTOL terminal at about 5am on Saturday 7th April 2018.

Internal Sabotage The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has suspected internal sabotage on the spate of attacks on the various terminals and this was confirmed by the president general of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju. He noted that “if there are no internal armed robbers or informants at the facilities, outside miscreants would find it difficult to come in and attack vessels at berth” Adeyanju said attacks on Josephdam was masterminded and aided by some workers of the terminal. He confirmed that staff of the terminal were complicit on the attacks successfully carried out on the terminal. Adeyanju however disclosed that the compromised staff have however being sacked by the management of the Josephdam. “Some of the staff of Josepdam that were involved in this issue have been sacked. The boys came to me and I told them they are on their own if you are involved they should face their music. No union will encourage that type of things,” Adeyanju said.

Dimissed Security Men, Suspected Factor Adeyanju also believed that the termination of tally clerks and onboard security men contracts from the respective stevedoring companies could indirectly contribute to the incessant attacks, especially if such dismissals were not accepted lightly by those affected. The union boss said the security men and tally clerks onboard who were sacked formed integral part of dockworkers. He said, “The tally clerks and onboard security men formed an integral part of dockworkers. We no longer have gangway men aboard anymore. What we are experiencing now might be the attitude of those who don’t have jobs again. “The pirates can just sneak in and perpetrate any form of evil and that is the position of things at the moment.” “You cannot put your house down when you know that the environment is not safe. There must be watchmen to secure your house and that is the job of the gangway men, and this service is by law and they form an integral part of the dockworkers. Before you can ask them to get out of the port, you have to first repeat the law establishing it at the national assembly.”

Reaction Of Stakeholders A maritime consultant and policy Analyst, Galtima Liman agreed that the spike in attacks on vessels at berth would increase the premium and insurance on vessels to the nation’s ports. He also wondered why shanties would e allowed close to the Lagos Port saying that would also fuel attack on vessels.

“There is going to be increase in insurance and premium for shipping companies that are coming to berth in the port,” he told LEADERSHIP Sunday correspondent. He continued, “and despite improvement in making Nigeria food dependent, we still substantially rely on import and most of the vessels that ferry these imports are foreign vessels and in the event that we are not fully compliant with the ISPS codes that brought lot of improvement in the security of the ports after the 9/11 attack in the United States.

Speaking on shanties around the Lagos ports, he said, “having shanties around some ports is an eyesore and I think this is a clarion call on administration of NPA and NIMASA to ensure that our ports are rid of these adjoining shanties,” he told LEADERSHIP Yesterday. Also speaking, the President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Alhaji Aminu Umar said attacks on vessels at Nigerian ports and jetties have been on the rise in recent time with little or no action from requisite agencies.

The NISA President said the implication of the attacks on ships at the ports are grave and “it puts our name in the international maritime wall that it is dangerous and a high risk area to do business particularly for ships to call”. According to him, “If the ports in Nigeria are considered as high risk area, what it means is that any ship owner coming here pays an additional insurance premium for coming into a zone that is called war risk zone. Some pay as high as $100, 000 to $200, 000 dollars for every seven days they are to stay on Nigeria waters.”

He said, “We have seen so much attacks in the evening. The robbers come and take whatever they can in the ships. It is not only the responsibility of NPA to secure the vessels in the harbour, but they should do more for vessels that are alongside at their ports. For private jetties, the Marine Police, Navy and NIMASA should be involved. There is need for them to work together to ensure that the harbours are totally secured.”

Conclusion Due to the adverse effect the unabated attacks will have on the economy through the increase on freight cost and insurance premiums, the federal government should empower the Marine unit of the Nigeria Police Force to e ale to stop these attacks. The Marine units of the NPF who are statutorily saddled with the responsibility of providing security on the inland waterways should be provided with platforms to wade off the attacks of the sea robbers who are petty thieves.

Source: Leadership

 

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Somalia, Ethiopia to jointly invest in four seaports on the Red Sea

Somalia and Ethiopia announced they were jointly investing in four seaports to attract foreign investment to their two countries, the latest move in a tussle for access to ports along one of the world’s most strategic waterways.

After Somalia’s president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo hosted Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed for a meeting at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, the two leaders issued a joint statement of pledges to cooperate on everything from the development of infrastructure including roads linking the two countries to expanding visa services to promote cultural exchanges.

The statement did not elaborate on which ports the two countries would develop.

The Horn of Africa’s Red Sea coastline extending north of Somalia through Djibouti and Eritrea toward the critical Suez Canal is already dotted with ports owned or run by countries locked in a regional struggle: the United Arab Emirates and its ally Saudi Arabia on one side, and Turkey which backs Qatar on the other.

Landlocked Ethiopia, which has a population of 100 million, has been led since April by 41-year-old former intelligence officer Abiy, who has moved swiftly to assert his nation’s interests on the international stage.

“The leaders further agreed to invest in logistics and service provision specially to leading ports in the continent that can serve both the Indian ocean and the Red Sea,” the statement read.

The day before Abiy’s visit to Somalia, the United Arab Emirates pledged to give $3 billion to Ethiopia in aid and investments, in a major show of support for the new leadership in Ethiopia.

The strengthened partnership between Ethiopia and the oil-rich Gulf monarchy is significant in the context of Addis Ababa’s ties with Mogadishu.

Somalia and the UAE have been at odds for months over the broader dispute in the Gulf region.

That Middle Eastern feud is driving the desire to control the Horn of Africa and its waters, diplomats, businessmen, scholars and Somali officials have told Reuters.

In May, Ethiopian state media reported that Ethiopia had taken an unspecified stake in the port of Djibouti, its main gateway for trade.

Source: Reuters

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UN Hodeidah fears

Yemen war: UN calls for vital port of Hudaydah to stay open

The UN Security Council has reiterated its call for the rebel-held Yemeni port of Hudaydah to remain open after urgent talks on the Saudi-backed offensive.

However, the council rejected a call by member state Sweden for an immediate halt to hostilities.

Pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition launched the offensive after Houthi rebels ignored a deadline to leave the port city.

Hudaydah is a key entry point for humanitarian aid to war-torn Yemen.

Calm before the storm

By Victoria Bisset, BBC News

In Hudaydah, as in towns and cities across Yemen, the war has affected all aspects of life since it began in 2015.

Yemen was already among the poorest Arab nations, and the conflict is now threatening one of its most populated cities.

Much of the country’s food and medical supplies travel through the port city, making the situation even worse for the millions facing starvation.

Although military operations have not yet reached inside the port city, the sounds of aircraft circling overhead can be heard and residents are tense, a local journalist told the BBC.

The UN Security Council met in a closed-door session on Thursday amid fears that the fighting could result in thousands of civilian casualties and trigger a wider humanitarian crisis.

Ahead of the talks, Swedish UN ambassador Carl Skau said it was time for the council to call for an immediate freeze to the military operation.

There was, however, not enough support to urge Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – which back pro-government Yemeni forces – to halt the offensive.

Instead, council members “reiterated their call for the ports of Hudaydah and Saleef to be kept open”, said Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who holds the council presidency.

He said Security Council members were “united in their deep concern about the risks to the humanitarian situation”.

Heavy fighting has been reported since the offensive began early on Wednesday and pro-government forces are within 2km (one mile) of the city’s airport, Emirati officials said.

Houthi positions have come under fire from Arab warships and aircraft. On Thursday, coalition Apache attack helicopters bombed a coastal area near the airport, residents told Reuters news agency.

“The fighting is getting close to the al-Manzar area near the airport and people are fleeing in fear,” said Mohammed Abdullah, who works for the city’s Houthi administration.

“My family left for Sanaa [the capital] yesterday but I stayed behind alone to protect our home from looters,” he added.

Medical sources quoted by AFP news agency said 30 Iranian-backed Houthi rebels had been killed on Thursday and nine pro-government soldiers.

Ambulances evacuating the dead and wounded were seen heading away from the airport as reinforcements moved towards the front line, an AFP correspondent reported. The UAE said on Wednesday that four of its soldiers had been killed.

Yemen’s foreign minister Khaled Alyemany said on Thursday that forces were holding off an advance on the port area amid concern that the flow of aid could be affected.

“We are in an area close to the airport, but not to the sea port,” he told a news conference in the UAE.

“We are not planning to destroy the infrastructure,” he added.

The UN’s World Food Programme said the port was still operational but fears were growing for those in desperate need of aid.

Executive director David Beasley urged all parties “to meet their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and take active steps to respect international humanitarian law”.

Meanwhile, Saudi-owned news channel al-Arabiya said Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi had returned to the temporary capital of Aden to oversee the battle for Hudaydah.

“The hour of victory is close and the return of justice is nearing that will lead to the triumph of the will of the Yemeni people,” he was quoted as saying on his arrival.

The government has spent much of its time in neighbouring Saudi Arabia since Houthi rebels seized control of Sanaa and other areas in the north-west of the country in late 2014.

In March 2015 Saudi Arabia and eight other mainly Sunni Muslim Arab states launched a military campaign to restore Mr Hadi’s government after becoming alarmed by the rise of the Houthi group which they see as an Iranian Shia Muslim proxy.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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Iran frees four sailors held by Somali pirates during complex intel operation

Iran’s intelligence forces have rescued four Iranian sailors from the captivity of pirates in Somalia following a complicated operation.

The sailors Masoud Balouchi, Ahmad Balouchi, Adam Balouchi and Shir-Mohammad Tabezar, kidnapped three years ago in international waters near Somalia, were welcomed by Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi in Tehran Thursday.

Alavi noted that the Intelligence Ministry put the release of the sailors on its agenda upon an order by President Hassan Rouhani who met the sailors’ families during his visit to the southeastern city of Chabahar.

The intelligence operation for the release of the sailors was highly challenging as the sailors were not held by a government or an official organization, Alavi pointed out.

The operation was conducted in close collaboration with the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the minister said.

In February 2017, eight Iranian sailors were freed from the captivity of pirates following negotiations between Senegal’s embassy in Somalia and the pirates.

The eight sailors were released six months after the crew members of an Iranian fishing vessel, which fell prey to pirates in May 2016, managed to escape from the hands of their kidnappers.

Piracy used to be a major problem in the Gulf of Aden as Somali pirates frequently attacked ships, seized their cargoes and kidnapped crew members, later demanding ransom for their release. Over the past years, the threat has largely subsided after international warships were deployed to the area to protect vessels.

The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to safeguard maritime traffic, especially for the country’s ships and oil tankers.

Source: Press TV

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Naval policing of maritime corridor deters pirate attacks

A secure corridor patrolled last year by naval warships in the Gulf of Aden and Bab Al Mandeb has been effective in curbing attacks on shipping.

Surveillance along the route, called the Maritime Security Transit Corridor, was meant to prevent attacks from small, high-speed boats filled with explosives – spillovers from the Yemen conflict and piracy raids off the coast of Somalia.

“The purpose of the Maritime Security Transit Corridor is to provide a recommended merchant traffic route around which naval forces can focus their presence and surveillance efforts, and we continue to recommend that all vessels use the MSTC to benefit from military presence and surveillance,” said Lt Cmdr Craig Sharland, deputy public affairs officer of the Combined Maritime Forces.

There are 32 nations, including the UAE, that make up the combined forces and which share a goal of providing security and stability across the region.

The two-way corridor directly links Bab Al Mandeb, a strait that is a crucial avenue for oil shipments, with the internationally recommended transit corridor in the Gulf of Aden.

Apart from anti-piracy, the navies focus on broader maritime security, counter-terrorism in the Arabian Gulf and keeping a free flow of international trade.

Navies have played a key role in disarming suspected pirate vessels before they pose a threat and in co-ordinating rescue efforts in the event of an attack.

“The drivers of piracy are still in place, so we assess that it is only suppressed,” he said.

The CMF said the level of pirate activity varied due to changing weather conditions and it encouraged merchant vessels transiting through high threat areas to follow guidance in threat assessments and bulletins regarding best practices that should be followed by vessels during and around the monsoon season.

“Given the enduring piracy threat to merchant vessels throughout the Gulf of Aden, Bab Al Mandeb and Southern Red Sea areas, CMF strongly encourages all vessels operating within the area to follow up to date guidance,” Lt Cmdr Sharland said.

“All year round, we remain committed to the enduring task of maritime security operations and actively adapt our methods dependent on the changing situation. Focused operations take place regularly, aimed at both enhancing the coalition’s ability to work together towards a common goal, and reminding merchant vessels that the threat of piracy remains very real.”

Naval forces have played a key role from disarming suspected pirate vessels before they pose a threat and coordinating rescue efforts in case of an attack.

Intelligence collection and information sharing were key to restraining pirates.

The EU Naval Force’s Maritime Security Centre in London registers more than 85 per cent of all maritime traffic, allowing officers to monitor and co-ordinate to assist with any incidents.

“In terms of counter-piracy operations in recent years we have seen a dramatic reduction in attacks and this trend continues,” Lt Col David Fielder, the Royal Marines spokesman with the EU force.

“However we encourage a constant networked approached with all maritime partners both military and commercial; this helps in a free flow of maritime traffic in the area. It needs constant effort and attention.”

The EU Naval Force and the Combined Maritime Forces meet in Bahrain twice a year. They issue threat assessment bulletins when attacks take place and conduct counter-piracy patrols.

“This passage of information provides industry with an awareness of the current situation that allows correct risk assessments to be made,” he said.

“We conduct training and exercises with partners including the Combined Maritime Forces, which allows us to understand how we inter-operate and keeps our skills and capabilities at a very high level,” said Lt Col Fielder.

“The force is encouraging closer co-operation and co-ordination of all counter-piracy forces in the region and this includes Chinese, Russian and Indian maritime forces.”

Warships of the CMF and EU Navfor along with helicopters and aircraft conducted counter-piracy operations across the Gulf of Aden and around the Somali coast earlier this year.

Source: The National

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Saudi ambassador to US: Yemen’s Houthis have attacked Saudi, UAE and US ships

Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Khalid bin Salman on Wednesday said the Houthi militia in Yemen have attacked commercial and military ships, including ships belonging to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the US, using advanced anti-shipping systems smuggled into Yemen.

In a series of Twitter posts, Prince Khalid cited the importance of liberating the Houthi-held Hodeidah, Yemen’s main port.

“The liberation of Hodeidah is critical in light of the growing threat that the Iranian backed Houthi militia poses to the maritime security of the red sea, a vital waterway through which about 15% of international commerce passes,” the ambassador said.

“The Houthi’s continued obstruction with regards to Hodeidah is due to their use of the port to raise revenues through looting, extortion, and illegal taxation imposed on commercial ships to finance and sustain their military aggression against Yemen and neighboring countries,” he added.

 

The battle to liberate Hodeidah will be by far the biggest battle of a three-year war between an alliance of Arab states and the Houthi militias that control Yemen’s capital.

Hodeidah, Yemen’s biggest Red Sea port and the only one under Houthi control, serves as the lifeline for the majority of Yemen’s population.

Prince Khalid’s full Twitter statement can be read below:

“The Kingdom has been and will continue to be at the forefront of humanitarian efforts to support the brotherly people of Yemen.

“These efforts included the recent contribution of $1.5 billion to UN relief efforts in Yemen, the largest in UN history, as well as initiatives to enhance the capacity of ports throughout Yemen, including facilitating the entry of cranes into Hodeidah.

“The most effective solution to the situation in Hodeidah, and in Yemen, is for the Houthi militias to adhere to UNSC resolution 2216 which calls for the unconditional Houthi withdrawal from all occupied cities.

“Due to the continued obstruction by the Iranian-backed Houthis of mediation efforts, the former UN envoy to Yemen proposed a plan to hand over control of Hodeidah to the UN.

“The Yemeni government and the coalition have accepted the proposal. Unfortunately, the Houthis, spurred by Iran, rejected this initiative as it did to all other initiatives. The Coalition remains supportive of UN efforts to implement its plan.

“The Houthi’s continued obstruction with regards to Hodeidah is due to their use of the port to raise revenues through looting, extortion, and illegal taxation imposed on commercial ships to finance and sustain their military aggression against Yemen and neighboring countries.

“The Houthis have so far launched 150 ballistic missiles against civilian areas in KSA, latest of which was intercepted today. This reckless aggression, supported by Iran is proof of the Houthis intentions. No nation can accept such a threat to its land and people on its borders

“The Houthi militia have also used the port of Hodeidah as a key entry point of smuggled weapons including Iranian provided ballistic missiles.

“The Coalition’s operations to liberate Hodiedah is part of the Coalition’s unwavering commitment to support the people of Yemen against the tyranny imposed by Iranian-backed militias that are spreading chaos and destruction in Yemen.

“The liberation of Hodeidah is critical in light of the growing threat that the Iranian backed Houthi militia poses to the maritime security of the red sea, a vital waterway through which about 15% of international commerce passes.

“The Houthi militia have attacked commercial and military ships, including ships belonging to the Kingdom, the UAE, the US, using advanced anti-shipping systems smuggled into Yemen, such as unmanned vessels.

“Liberating Hodeidah will enhance the maritime security in the region which is crucial for the global economy.

“Addressing the humanitarian situation in a sustainable and effective manner requires liberating Yemen from the control of Houthi militias, which intentionally disrupt the flow and distribution of humanitarian supplies.

“As we have seen in post-ISIS Mosul, improving the humanitarian situation significantly, requires reinstating legitimate government institutions and providing continued robust international support.”

The United Arab Emirates, a member of the Western-backed alliance, set a Tuesday deadline for the Iran-aligned Houthis to withdraw from the port of Hodeidah under U.N.-led talks.

“These are the last and final hours to get unconditional guarantees that the Houthis will leave the port,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Reuters, but declined to discuss military operations.

Gargash said plans were in place to keep the port operational and urged the international community to pressure the Houthis to evacuate and leave the port intact, without planting mines.

Source: Alarabiya

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