Improved government relations in Sulu & Celebes Seas to mitigate piracy

Stable Seas published a report focused on piracy attacks daunting around the Sulu and Celebes Seas. The report adopts an overall approach to get an insight on linkages between maritime governance themes and maritime security challenges in the Sulu and Celebes Seas.

The region’s three most populous states, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, converge in a tri-border area with a complex political history and a long legacy of illicit maritime activity.

Specifically, the busiest shipping lanes globally take place in the Southeast Asian Archipelago.

According to the report, the Archipelago is the only one that combines the geographic and political complexity of this area, resulting it to be the world’s most challenging maritime security environments.

The report addresses the most common factors of piracy, as:

  • Poor coastal economic welfare;
  • Rooted shadow economies;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Organized potitical violence against soft coastal and offshore targets.

Additionally, the report discusses how the above affect one another and their consequences in the shipping industry.

The approach results to a better-cooperation within and across governments, aiming to sustainability in maritime security.



London high court to reach decision on alleged piracy attack in Gulf of Aden

Οn July 5 2011, a small boat with seven armed in the Gulf of Aden drew alongside the ‘Brillante Virtuoso’, a tanker with 140,000 tonnes of fuel oil. A few hours after the pirates boarded the ship, a fire took place, while the armed men went away and the crew abandoned ship. However, the owners of the ship and the insurers have different stories of what it may have happened, and the London high court will have to decide on the case.

‘Brillante Virtuoso’ was sailing in a dangerous area, some miles off Yemen. This is what makes the owners claim that the ship’s crew had practised safety drills and had established anti-piracy defences. Moreover, they were following orders to wait an unarmed security team to come to the ship, to protect it during its sail through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

This is where it gets complicated as there are many reports regarding the men who arrived, claiming to be ‘the authorities’. Nevertheless, they managed to get into the ship and gather the crew at gunpoint. After that, they ordered the master and chief engineer to go to Somalia.

Based on court documents that the ship’s owners filed, a few hours later the engines stopped working. As the chief engineer was trying to find out the cause of why the engines stopped working, he managed to get away from the pirates. Because of this, the armed men detonated an explosive device, which led to a fire. Following this development, salvage teams arrived on scene to rescue the ship. However, the extend of the damage was great and the ship was sold for scrap.

According to the owners, the pirates were or used to be members of the Yemeni navy or coast guard.

On the other hand, the insurers have another story. They believe that this attack was staged by the owners of the ship. The specifically claim that the master, chief engineer and some other crew were participating in the attack. According to them, this fact would explain why a crew member was instructed to deploy a ladder for the group of armed and masked men, without considering that they may not be who they claimed to be.

In addition, Somali pirates do not usually set ships on fire and the explosion was deliberate to damage the ship, the defendants note.

Now, a trial will start on February 18 to decide what happened. Three years ago, in April 2016, the claimants had not presented certain documents, making the High Court in London throw out the original case against the insurers.



ASG hostages well

SANDAKAN: The three fishermen kidnapped by members of Abu Sayyaf near Kinabatangan last December are in good condition, says Sabah police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah.

Comm Omar said a source had informed the Malaysian authorities about the men’s wellbeing.

He added that the case was still under investigation and efforts to hunt the suspects are actively being carried out by the authorities.

“As I have mentioned before, the suspects demanded a ransom of RM4mil in their previous call to us.

“So far, we have not received any new calls from the suspects,” he told reporters when met at a community walkabout programme at the netball stadium in Bandar Kimfung on Friday (Feb 15).

According to Comm Omar, security forces in the Philippines are also extending their fullest cooperation to Malaysia in tracking down the victims and suspects.

Three fishermen – two Indonesians and a Malaysian – were abducted from waters off Sabah on Dec 5.

They were taken from their trawler in the Pegasus Reef area off the Kinabatangan district.

They were reportedly being held in Jolo under the guard of Abu Sayyaf member Halimau, a close lieutenant of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Hatib Hajan Sawdjan.

Hatib is believed to be the key sponsor for the cross-border kidnapping raids.

Source: Maritime Security Review


Italy’s pirate hunter warship docks in Abu Dhabi for Idex

Vessels like the Carlo Margottini will protect the waters between Yemen, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia

The scourge of sea piracy at the start of this decade led to the pillage, theft and hijacking of vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and the kidnapping and ransom of sailors and crew.

Only a multinational fleet of navies deployed to the Horn of Africa in 2010 and 2011 put an end to the spree.

But hijackings are now on the rise again, and vessels like Italy’s Carlo Margottini are tasked with tackling armed pirates, often operating off the coast of Somalia.

On an exclusive tour of the advanced warship, its commander stressed the need to stay the course and protect the waters between Yemen, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia.

Commander Marco Guerriero, whose vessel is docked for the Abu Dhabi International Defence Exhibition (Idex), highlighted the ship’s technological sophistication over that of its adversaries.

On March 7, the frigate will depart Muscat to begin its second six-month tour of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, where pirates and smugglers have long operated with abandon.

“We contribute to creating a safe environment at sea, to providing freedom of navigation to all traffic,” said Commander Guerriero. That includes aid from the World Food Programme as well as the oil shipments that the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal are synonymous with.

The ship is participating in Operation Atalanta, the European Union’s first naval operation, launched in 2008 to counter piracy at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Indian Ocean. It will participate in the mission alongside vessels from Spain, France and elsewhere, to deter piracy and armed robbery.

Over the past decade, Operation Atalanta has carried out numerous successful anti-piracy missions, capturing dozens of pirates. As a result, much of the piracy, which reached a peak in waters around Somalia in 2011, was stamped out.

But in 2017, the number of incidents doubled in a single year, suggesting that plenty of work still needs to be done. A cargo ship from Dubai was hijacked off the coast of Somalia that year and its eight sailors were rescued days later.

Still, according to Mr Guerriero, the warship had a successful year in 2018. “So far I’d say that the activity of the unit was so effective that we did not need to go into a direct action with pirates”, he said.

“The pressure and the surveillance is good enough as a deterrent to prevent any contact.”

Built in 2014, the Carlo Margottini is state-of-the-art. Although it specialises in stealth and anti-submarine warfare, it is equipped for multiple types of mission. At 144 metres in length, it carries a crew of 167 and has a maximum speed of 27 knots. The frigate carries two helicopters and includes a surface anti-air missile system and two torpedo launch systems in its arsenal.

“This is a technological jewel, showcasing the best of Italian innovation,” said Liborio Stellino, Italy’s Ambassador to the UAE.

He was welcomed on board the frigate on Thursday, where he signed the welcome book and addressed the ship’s crew, comprised of sailors, pilots and special forces.

The frigate’s arrival in the UAE and six-month deployed is significant.

Emirati companies DP World and P&O operate ports in Bosaso, Somalia, and Berbera in Somaliland, and have two military bases in the Horn of Africa. The UAE is therefore keen to protect shipping routes and has funded anti-piracy operations in Somalia.

“This is a very important area for all maritime traffic,” said Mr Guerriero. “Italy is one of the countries that has been taking part in this operation since the beginning.”

Mr Stellino referred to the historic military co-operation between Italy and the UAE in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Anti-piracy operations in the waters around the Horn of Africa, presenting a global threat, are no different, he said.

“This is like a floating embassy,” Mr Stellino said. “It is a demonstration of Italian hard and soft power.”

The Idex Conference runs from February 17 to 21 and will host the world’s biggest arms manufacturers. The event, which will comprise representatives from the US, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Italy and France — as well as the UAE — is expected to see deals exceeding Dh19.17 billion signed.

For Italy it is an opportunity to present the best weaponry and material the country’s large defence sector has to offer. It is against this backdrop that the Carlo Margottini has docked in the UAE.

“Hopefully it will allow people to discover the parts of Italy that are not food, fashion and Ferraris,” said Mr Stellino.

Source: Maritime Security Review


Three armed robberies against ships in Asia in January

The situation of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia in January 2019 has improved compared to the same period in 2018, according to ReCAAP ISC’s new monthly report. A total of three incidents of armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia in January 2019, compared to 11 incidents in January 2018.

Highlights January 2019

  • A total of three incidents of armed robbery against shipswere reported in Asia in January 2019
  • Compared to January 2018, there was a 73% decreasein the number of incidents reported in January 2019 (a total of 11 incidents were reported in January 2018)

  • All three incidents reported in January 2019 occurred onboard ships anchored; one at Caofeidian anchorageand one at Jingtang anchorage in China; and one at Ciwandan anchorage in Indonesia
  • Of the three incidents reported in January 2019, one was a CAT 3incident and two were CAT 4

  • There was no report of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah; and no hijacking of ships for theft of oil cargo reported in January 2019
  • However, the abduction of crew for ransom in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah remains a serious concern.

Sulu-Celebes Seas and Waters off Eastern Sabah

  • On 15 January 2019, the Philippine authorities rescued the remaining one abducted fisherman of Sri Dewi 1.
  • Fishing boat Sri Dewi 1 was sailing in waters off Gaya Island, Semporna, Sabah on 11 September 2018 when two masked men armed with firearms boarded the fishing boat and abducted two fishermen.
  • One of the abducted fishermen was rescued earlier by the authorities on 5 December 2018.
  • As of 31st January 2019, nine crew is still held in captivity.
  • The Philippine authorities continue to conduct pursuit operations and intensify its military operations to rescue the abducted crew and neutralise the militant group.

Despite the improvement of situation of piracy and sea robbery in Asia in January 2019, the ReCAAP ISC reiterates the need for law enforcement agencies to enhance surveillance, increase patrols and respond promptly to reports of incident. Ships transiting areas of concern are to exercise enhanced vigilance, maintain all round lookout for suspicious boats, report all incidents to the nearest coastal State and flag State immediately, and implement preventive measures recommended in the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.




Ending Sea Piracy In Nigeria

The United Nations recently revealed that Nigeria lost an estimated $2.8 billion revenue in 2018 due, mainly, to oil-related crimes. A report by the world body, which covered the period from July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018, said maritime crime and piracy off the coast of West Africa continued to pose a threat to peace, security and development in the region. It noted that oil-related crimes resulted in the above stated loss.

Similarly, there are reports that Nigeria runs the risk of losing a substantial part of its $6 billion (N2.16trn) annual freight income to insecurity in the nation’s maritime sector. The country earns over $6 billion annually from freight charges but may not be able to retain the money in the economy due to piracy, sea-robbery and other maritime crimes on the nation’s waters. Experts say that because of the activities of these sea criminals, ships bound for Nigeria usually make extra security arrangements and pass the costs to Nigeria.

At a time the nation is making several efforts to fund the huge infrastructural gap in Nigeria, we believe the federal government should not condone such monumental losses. The menace of sea piracy in the country is not a new phenomenon but the increasing rate of the crime calls for a holistic approach to tackle it frontally. More than ever before, sea piracy is at an increasing rate in Nigeria. It has been one of the major debilitating factors for the development of Nigeria’s maritime industry. The international dimension of the impact of piracy on the maritime industry worldwide has necessitated concerted global efforts at curbing the menace.

The Nigerian waterways have remained in the unenviable category of the most porous in the world for sometime now. The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) report for first and second quarters of 2018 showed that Nigeria ranks top in countries with the highest number of recorded attacks against vessels. The country alone accounted for a total of 22 of the 45 attacks recorded in the first three months of 2018. Officially, Nigeria has displaced the war torn country of Somalia, which is notorious for sea piracy, in the shameful category of countries with unsafe waterways.

This newspaper is of the opinion that the government must do the needful to empower the agencies charged with the responsibility of ensuring safety of the waterways to provide for them the most modern equipment required to monitor the waters and to combat these men of the underworld. The Nigerian Navy also should do more in securing the nation’s territorial waters, in cooperation with other agencies of government. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) should, on its part, step up its coastal security activities and provide platforms to rid the nation’s waters of these criminals.

There is a need for the country to have a robust surveillance system so that all the processes of ship operations and payments are integrated with it. There must be electronic platforms to report any infractions by vessels anywhere in the country.

A special maritime force should be created and a sustainable funding mechanism as well as an Automated Identification System (AIS) replaced with a better technology. The AIS should be improved upon so as to make Nigeria’s waters safe. It is only in this way would the payment of high freight rate and marine insurance premium which has been the target of the foreign shipping firms be stopped.

As much as government may want to tackle the problem head on, more needs to be done regarding increased activity at Nigeria’s coast. Although patrols have increased, most incidents tend to occur outside the main patrol areas. In recent times, a number of attacks have been recorded showing that government agencies responsible for the monitoring and foiling of attacks are clearly failing in their responsibility.

We also call for synergy among the government agencies responsible for revenue generation and security at the seaports and territorial waters. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and NIMASA should form a synergy that would result in the sustainable protection of the country’s territorial integrity in the maritime sector.



Somalia: Iran Deports Suspected Pirates to Somalia

Thirteen Somali nationals have been deported to Somalia after serving several years in Iranian jails for alleged piracy.

In a statement published on Iranian News Agency, the country’s Justice Ministry announced that 10 Somali convicts had been deported to their homeland on Wednesday.

The individuals are said to have been convicted in Iranian courts for piracy.

Deputy Minister of Justice Mahmoud Abbasi said that the convicts would end their jail term in Somalia.

Iran is among the countries that have been operating in the Indian Ocean to fight against pirates since 2011.

Its navy forces had seized boats and detained dozens of Somalis suspected to have been involved in piracy.

Many Somali pirates suspects are now serving jail terms in Iran.

Mid last year, Somali pirates had freed four Iranian sailors held captive for more than three years.

Piracy along Somalia’s coastline had fallen far from its peak in 2011-2012 when pirate “mother ship” boats ranged thousands of miles across the Indian Ocean.

Several foreign navies, including those from the European Union and China, operate regularly in the area as part of anti-piracy missions.



Workshop to promote counter-terrorism treaties in South and South-East Asia

IMO and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), IMO security and counter-terrorism treaties, such as SOLAS Chapter XI-2 and the suppression of unlawful acts (SUA) instruments, conducted a cross-regional workshop in Bali, Indonesia to support the implementation of the treaties in South and South-East Asia for terrorist attacks. The workshop took place on 5 to 8 of February.

Mainly, the workshop highlights the importance to approve the global counter-terrorism instruments and to incorporate their provisions into national laws as well as promoting multi-agency and regional collaboration.

The event is based on national workshops that took place in Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Viet Nam, as well as a sub-regional event held at IMO Headquarters in November 2018.

The workshop consisted of participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam.

In addition, the participants shared their experiences and best practices on security issues and discussed the possibility of regional and cross-regional cooperation on maritime counter-terrorism prevention and response.

Concluding, this is the last activity under the ‘partnership without paperwork’ project that’s initiated by UNODC, and funded by the Japanese Government. In this phase, IMO is presenting subjects that include ‘the International Legal Framework against Maritime Terrorism’; ‘Suspected transport of BCN weapons by vessel in transit and passing through territorial waters’ and ‘Bio-Terrorism/Mass Casualty event involving a Cruise Liner alongside in port’.



Oil Theft: 34 Pirate Ship Attacks Recorded in 2018 – Navy

The Nigerian Navy has said that it recorded about thirty-four (34) pirate ship attacks in 2018, stating that evasive maneuver from the legal regime have been the bane in the fight against oil theft prosecution.

Director of Training and Operation, Rear Admiral Mackson Makonju Kadiri stated while delivering 2018 scorecard of the Nigerian Navy at first quarter media dialogue held at the Naval Headquarters in Abuja.

Kadiri said from January to December 2018, a total of 34 pirates’ attacks on shipping were reported with 9 successful and 25 unsuccessful while a total of 20 sea robbery attacks were reported in 2018 with 6 successful and 14 unsuccessful.

He added that, despite the observed trend of threat migration, especially with regards to incessant illegal refining of crude oil, piracy, sea robbery, crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, IUUF, insurgency among others, significant gains were achieved in 2018 leading to increased output in maritime trade and particularly oil production.

He said, “So far, 9 houseboats otherwise known as Naval Security Stations (NSS) have been deployed where crude oil theft and illegal refining activities are known to be prevalent.

“Since the introduction of the Choke Point Control Regime, several arrests and destruction of barges and other vessels used for conveying stolen crude oil and illegally refined products have been arrested.”

Earlier, in his welcome address, Chief of Policy Plans, Rear Admiral Begroy Ibe – Enwo who represented the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral IE Ibas said the dialogue was organized essentially to highlight the efforts of Nigerian Navy in the administration of effective maritime security.

Ibe – Enwo, solicited closer cooperation between the Navy and the media to ensure friendly posture most especially in reporting sensitive military operations and activities in support of our national security.



IMO sheds focus on African maritime development

As part of its efforts to help African countries improve the sustainability of their maritime sectors and their blue economies, IMO has participated in two major annual maritime security exercises in Djibouti and in Maputo, Mozambique, to help support their initiatives.

The first one, Cutlass Express, is currently underway in Djibouti, Mozambique and the Seychelles, on 25 January – 7 February.

Cutlass Express puts special emphasis on encouraging navies and civilian agencies and different countries to work together, as envisaged in existing frameworks such as the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) and the Jeddah Amendment to the DCoC – a regional agreement against maritime crime in the Gulf of Aden and western Indian Ocean area.

The Djibouti Code of Conduct, that has been instrumental in repressing piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region, has seen its scope significantly broadened to cover other illicit maritime activities, including human trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The Jeddah Amendment recognizes the important role of the “blue economy” including shipping, seafaring, fisheries and tourism in supporting sustainable economic growth, food security, employment, prosperity and stability.

IMO is also taking part in a Senior Leaders Seminar, organized by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in the margins of Cutlass Express, in Maputo, Mozambique, in which heads of navies from the region are participating.

During the exercise, IMO emphasized the need for multi-agency, multi-disciplinary and whole of government approaches to maritime development within the context of the Codes of Conduct and how maritime security can underpin economic development and generate wider stability.


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