Iran has released a short video of what it says is the crew of the Stena Impero, the British-flagged tanker that was seized by Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.
Shipping associations have called on ship owners to inform Britain’s navy of their movements before sailing into the Strait of Hormuz because of the escalating crisis in the region. BIMCO, ICS, INTERTANKO and OCIMF published guidance for vessels that sail through the Arabian Gulf (AG), Straits of Hormuz (SoH) and Gulf of Oman (GOO).
Specifically, to ensure the safety of the crew and all vessels and allow navies to afford best protection to global trade it is vital:
- Masters register with UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) when entering the Indian Ocean VRA (Ref C & D).
- Comply with Flag State Guidance.
- 24-48 hrs in advance – Masters provide transit plans for the SoH and AG to UKMTO including:
o Time of Entering/Exiting the SoH TSS.
o Outline of Navigation Plan whilst operating in SoH and AG.
o Any constraints or speed restrictions.
o Crew Nationality.
- CSO’s ensure all contact numbers for UKMTO and USNAVCENT NCAGS are correct.
- In the event of any incident or being concerned, Masters should call UKMTO immediately.
- Masters answer all VHF calls from coalition navies. Ch16 is becoming very busy, alternative channels will be offered.
- CSOs and Masters prepare, print and have available the correct response if called on VHF.
Moreover, UKMTO will be in position to discuss with navies and answer questions regarding information sharing.
21.07.2019 0240 UTC
Posn: 08:28.1N – 013:28.1W,
Freetown Anchorage, Sierra Leone.
Five robbers armed with knives in a small wooden boat approached and boarded an anchored container ship using a rope attached with a hook. The robbers took hostage the duty crew and stole his personal belongings and ship’s properties. Alert crew noticed the robbers and raised the alarm. All doors locked and crew mustered. Hearing the alarm and seeing the crew alertness, the robbers escaped. Port Control informed. During the incident the duty crew sustained injuries.
21.07.2019 1925 UTC
Around 16nm NW of Pulau Damar, Indonesia.
Seven pirates armed with a pistol and knives in a small speed boat boarded a bulk carrier underway using a ladder attached with a hook. Master and the second officer taken hostage, tied up and assaulted by the pirates. The pirates stole cash and crew personal belongings before escaping. Incident reported to Korean Authorities.
Iran’s military has released footage showing its elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Special Forces impounding the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. A second tanker, Mesdar, was also boarded briefly.
Iran says the vessel was failing to respect international maritime laws in the Persian Gulf, with Iranian media claiming the seized tanker was using the exit lane to enter into the Strait of Hormuz and almost colliding with other vessels.
Dryad Global has released a radio exchanges involving the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose and Iranian armed forces vessels, moments before the tanker was seized.
Britain rejected Iran’s claim about the tanker and instead called the seizure a hostile act. The incident follows threats from Iran to retaliate for Britain’s seizure of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.
The U.K. government, supported by France and Germany, has demanded that Iran immediately release the Stena Empero and crew and avoid “escalating tensions down a dangerous path,” reports Dryad. The U.K. government has called for all U.K. interest vessels to avoid the area.
Meanwhile, Spire Maritime has provided tracking data indicating that the U.K.-flagged tanker Mesdar that was boarded briefly by Iranian forces on Friday continues to follow an unusual path.
CREDIT: Vessel Tracking Satellite Data provided by Spire Maritime, a division of Spire Global.
The U.S. has stated that it intends to deploy additional forces to Saudi Arabia in response to threats within the region. The kingdom has not hosted U.S. combat forces since 2003 but has approved the move to strengthen regional security and stability. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have worsened after Iran shot down a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz last month and the U.S. shot down an Iranian drone last week.
Dryad says, in the interests of business continuity, charterers and technical managers are advised to consider the chartering of non-U.K. connected vessels in the medium to long term. It is the assessment of Dryad that Chinese-flagged vessels currently represent the lowest risk of interruption within the Strait of Hormuz and are highly unlikely to experience any form of disruption by way of detention. “The U.K. is unlikely to yield to threats from Iran, and the detention of a U.K.-flagged vessel is highly likely to have had a significant impact on Iranian diplomatic efforts to release the Grace 1.”
Source: The Maritime Executive
The attention of the Naval Headquarters has been drawn to media reports on the suspected pirate attack on MV PAKSOY 1.
After thorough investigation, the Naval Headquarters finds it imperative to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the incident. On 14 July 2019 at about 1643 hours, the Naval Headquarters received a report of a suspected pirate attack on MV PAKSOY 1 at about 124 nautical miles off the coast of Brass.
MV PAKSOY 1 is a Turkish flagged general cargo vessel that reportedly sailed from Cameroon and was heading to Abidjan when she came under attack on Saturday 13 July 2019 at position: Latitude 020 58’N Longitude 0040 40’E, about 124 nautical miles South West of Brass.
It is pertinent to note that according to International Maritime Bureau report, the incident occurred around 2250 hours on the 13 July 2019, but the NHQ Operations Room was alerted around 1643 hours on the 14 July 2019, which is about 18 hours after the incident occurred. In accordance with the NN operational procedures, the position of the vessel was plotted on the Nigerian Navy Maritime Domain Awareness system and the vessel was spotted at Latitude 030 53’ 14”N Longitude 0030 03’ 26”E which is about 152nm due South of Lagos Fair Way Buoy and about 21 nautical miles from the Nigerian/Republic of Benin International Maritime Boundary.
The Commander Task Group (CTG) of OP TSARE TEKU was informed of the incident. Regrettably, the CTG could not do much as the vessel was almost heading out of Nigerian waters. In view of the fact that the vessel would be out of Nigerian waters in about 2 hours with the speed of 11.4knots, the Naval Headquarters alerted HQ Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC) Zone E Cotonou, Republic of Benin. On receipt of the information, the Commander MMCC informed other member countries in Zone E and also Zone F Headquarters as the vessel seemed to be headed westerly at the time.
The vessel was later intercepted around 0831 hours on 15 July 2019 by the Ghana Navy Ship EHWOR and escorted to Tema Port, Ghana. Preliminary reports from Ghana Navy and IMB conveyed that the suspected pirates abducted 10 crew members of MV PAKSOY 1. The report further stated that the 7 crew members left onboard by the attackers sailed the vessel to Tema Port, Ghana.
The NN is already interfacing with Ghana Navy to obtain further details on the circumstances surrounding the pirate attack on MV PAKSOY 1. Nevertheless, considering that 10 crew members of the ship were reportedly abducted all naval units and other security agencies operating within the creeks and back waters of the Niger Delta have been tasked to ensure safe rescue and return of these crew men. Investigations are also ongoing towards getting a lead to burst the hide out of these criminals and rescue the abducted persons.
Source: HELLENIC SHIPPING NEWS
Incident involving seven armed pirates occurred early Monday, say government officials
A South Korean kamsarmax has been attacked by robbers near the Singapore Strait, South Korean officials have confirmed.
The 81,100-dwt CK Bluebell (built 2011) was boarded by armed pirates at around 04.25am on Monday about 100 miles from the entrance of the strait.
Officials at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said $13,000 was stolen during the raid as well as personal belongings, including mobile phones, clothes and shoes.
No casualties were reported from the attack, they said, noting some sailors sustained minor injuries, such as bruises, during their confrontations with the pirates.
The CK Bluebell was en-route to Incheon after departing from Brazil resumed its normal navigation after the attack, reported Yonhap news agency.
“Ordinary freighters navigate at a speed below 15 knots. But a speed boat operated by the pirates approached the freighter at a speed above 20 knots,” a ministry official said.
“Afterward, seven weapons-wielding pirates got on board and assaulted the sailors for about 30 minutes.”
News of the attack comes just days after the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) reported a 32% year-on-year decline in piracy levels in the first half of 2019.
Stena and Norbulk vessels captured in latest Middle East shipping drama
A UK-flagged tanker owned by Stena Bulk has been seized by Iran and another UK-connected ship detained for several hours during a dramatic escalation of tensions between London and Tehran.
On Friday morning local time, the UK-flagged 49,638-dwt Stena Impero (built 2018) was taken by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard while transiting international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
Footage circulated on social media by Abas Aslani, editor-in-chief of Iran Front Page, showed masked Iran Revolutionary Guard commandos abseiling from a helicopter onto the tanker as fast patrol boats circled.
The Islamic Republic said the tanker was “violating international regulations”, a claim Stena Bulk has denied.
On Saturday Iran claimed the tanker had been in a collision with an Iranian fishing vessel having ignored a distress call.
It then adjusted its position, admitting it was retaliating against the detention of a tanker in Gibraltar by UK forces.
The Stena Impero has been taken to Bander Abbas port, on Iran’s southern coast.
“All its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over,” the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, said, according to Fars and Reuters.
n a statement late on Friday night Stena Bulk – which has taken its website offline except for updates about the incident – said: “The vessel was in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.”
It later confirmed the crew were in good health and a request will be made for company officials to visit them on the tanker.
“Our insurers have also advised that the Head of Marine Affairs has confirmed to them that no instructions have been received so far as to what will happen to the ship,” Stena Bulk added.
Chief executive of Stena Bulk, Erik Hanell, said: “I can confirm a formal request for permission to visit the 23 crew members of the Stena Impero has been made to the authorities at the Port of Bandar Abbas.
“The request has been acknowledged, but we await a formal response. In the meantime, we will continue to co-operate and liaise with all appropriate authorities.”
He added: “All of Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management’s efforts and focus continue to be on the welfare and safe return of our crew and supporting their families during this very difficult time.
“Our local staff in India, Latvia, Philippines, Russia are in constant touch with the families and we will continue to do everything humanly possible to keep them informed and to support them in every way we can.”
Second tanker targeted
A second ship, the Liberian-flagged, Norbulk Shipping-linked 315,802-dwt Mesdar (built 2017), was boarded by armed personnel for three-and-a-half hours, but was later let go.
Shipping databases describe the Mesdar as owned by New Ocean Shipping Venure, which is 50-50 controlled by British Virgin Islands registered Sonatrach Petroleum Corp and Japan’s Kawasaki Shipbuilding Corp. It is technically managed by Norbulk Shipping of Scotland.
Sonatrach Petroleum is a subsidiary of Sonatrach, the state oil company in Algeria, which enjoys friendly relations with Iran.
The events unfolded on Friday in the latest twist to simmering relations between Britain and Iran following the arrest of a VLCC by UK marines in Gibraltar earlier this month.
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz.”
“I will shortly attend a COBR meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels — a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel.
- Vessel type: Medium range product tanker of 49,700-dwt
- Built: 2018 at CSSC OME in China
- Market Value: $36.33m
“Their crews comprise a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.
“Our Ambassador in Tehran is in contact with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the situation and we are working closely with international partners.
“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”
In an update on Saturday Hunt said Britain would ensure the safety of its shipping, and that there were signs that Iran “may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s legal detention of oil bound for Syria,” Reuters reported.
US president Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that he will be “working with the UK” on the incident, Bloomberg reports.
“This only goes to show what I’m saying about Iran: trouble, nothing but trouble,” he is quoted as saying.
Owner’s big problem
Stephen Askins, a partner at London law firm Tatham & Co, called the moves a “massive escalation” of the crisis.
He has previously told TradeWinds about how hard it would be for any shipowner to free a vessel seized by Iran.
“Really the UK and therefore the shipowner would be powerless. Iran are not signatories of UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] and the only legal forum is [UN-backed tribunal] ITLOS, but Iran would either not participate or would ignore any ruling in any event,” he said
Askins added the owner would have to make some kind of application to the Iranian courts.
“But I don’t think we can assume (anymore than we can in Saudi Arabia) that the judiciary and courts are truly independent of the leaders,” he said.
“It would become very political and the vessel would effectively be held hostage pending Gibraltar’s (or the US’) decision to seek forfeiture of the vessel. I think Iran have made it clear that they are determined to gain some kind of leverage to deal with the Grace 1 and to deter anyone taking similar action against Iranian assets.”
According to The Times, the British navy vessel HMS Montrose, which has been providing protection to British merchant vessels in the Gulf, was one hour from the Stena Impero when it was taken.
This has led to a string of questions about the protection of UK-linked ships in the Gulf and accusations politicians had taken their eye off the ball internationally given the ongoing race for Prime Minister at home.
Stena Bulk chief executive Erik Hanell said in a statement issued late on Friday night in Europe, the crew comprised Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino seafarers.
“There have been no reported injuries and the safety and welfare of our crew remains our primary focus,” he added.
“We are in close contact with both the UK and Swedish government authorities to resolve this situation and we are liaising closely with our seafarers’ families.”
The Stena Impero is insured by the Swedish Club and classed by Lloyd’s Register.
The Mesdar is insured by the UK P&I Club and classed by Bureau Veritas.
Satellite data for the duo showed them in the Strait of Hormuz before taking sharp turns north toward Iran. Both then shut off their automatic identification systems (AIS).
However, the Mesdar’s AIS appeared to reactivate after several hours, and the ship turned back toward the strait’s navigation channel.
Dryad said the ship may have been released as it had a Russian captain.
Iranian English-language media reported the Mesdar had simply been notified of environmental and maritime regulations and let go.
Norbulk said there were no injuries.
The Stena Impero was reportedly taken to Qeshm, an Iranian island in the Strait of Hormuz.
The waterway was already a politically sensitive region, carrying nearly a third of all the world’s seaborne oil daily.
SPOTLIGHT ON STENA BULK
- Chief executive: Erik Hanell
- Owner: Stena Group, which is also active in offshore drilling, ferries, property and finance
- Stena Bulk fleet: Thirteen tankers and three LNG carriers on water worth $727.76m
- Stake in five newbuildings worth $106.69m
Grace 1 retaliation
Tensions in the area have heightened in recent weeks with the alleged sabotage of four tankers near Fujairah in May and the attacks on two more last month.
Various parties have blamed Iran for both attacks, which it denies.
More recently, the Ukrainian-owned 301,000-dwt Grace 1 (built 1997) was seized 4 July in Gibraltar under suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria.
On 11 July, a British Royal Navy ship, the HMS Montrose, thwarted an attempted attack from Iranian ships on a BP tanker.
Six days later, the Islamic republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened retaliation for the UK’s “wickedness.”
Thursday, the IMO condemned the May and June attacks, saying they posed a “grave danger to life” and “serious risk to navigational safety”.
“Threats to ships and their crews, peaceably going about their business in any part of the world, are intolerable,” said IMO secretary general Kitack Lim.
Jonathan Moss, head of transport and marine at global legal business, DWF, said in a statement at the weekend the seizing of the Stena tanker was unacceptable and clearly an act of retaliation as a consequence for the British authorities holding the Iranian Grace 1.
“The rising tensions as a result of these incidents will continue to have a knock on effect on global fuel prices and insurance premium,” he added.
A little perspective
The Strait of Hormuz is the passageway for 20% of the world’s oil exports with almost 19 million barrels per day (bpd) shipped through the narrow waterway, according to BBC.
By comparison, 5.5 million bpd are shipped through the Suez Canal, the BBC said.
Oil exports added $66bn to Iran’s economy in 2017, prior to the latest round of US sanctions being imposed.
Almost 240 tankers were attacked on the tanker wars of the 1980s and 55 of them sank.
13 May: Four tankers including Bahri and Thome ships targeted in attacks off Fujairah
14 May: US claims Iran used mines, which Iran denies
13 June: Two tankers operated by Frontline and BSM hit by torpedoes or mines off Iran
15 June: Front Altair towed from Iranian waters as crew leave Iran
19 June: Insurance premiums spike as UAE declared high-risk area
4 July: UK marines board 301,000-dwt Grace 1 (built 1997) in Gibraltar on suspicion it had shipped Iranian crude to Syria, sparking fury in Iran
6 July: Tanker markets spooked amid reports a UK-flagged VLCC, MOL’s 302,290-dwt Pacific Voyager (built 2009), had been targeted by Iranian forces
11 July: British warship fends off an attempt by Iranian vessels to seize a BP tanker
17 July: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei slams Britain for “piracy” and says the Country “would not leave this wickedness unanswered”
17 July: Reports surface Iran may have seized a small oil tanker, Riah, travelling through the Strait of Hormuz
19 July: Gibraltar’s Supreme Court clears the way for the UK territory to hold the VLCC Grace 1 for another 30 days
Trump said aircraft’s close proximity to warship threatened safet of the ship and its crew
The US Navy has shot down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz, according to US President Donald Trump.
Iran shoots down US drone over Strait of Hormuz
The drone is said to have flown too close to the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Boxer and ignored multiple calls to turn away.
Speaking at The Whitehouse, Trump said: “The Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone, which had closed into a very, very near distance, approximately 1,000 yards …and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew. The drone was immediately destroyed.” Trump said this was “the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran” against vessels operating in international waters.
“The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce,” he said.
“I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the strait and to work with us in the future.”
Details of the incident were confirmed in a short statement issued by chief pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.
“At approximately 10 a.m. local time, the amphibious ship USS Boxer was in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz,” he said.
“A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”
Last month Iran shot down a US drone over the Strait of Hormuz claiming it had “violated Iranian airspace”, and that the incident sent a “clear message to America”.
But the US military insisted the drone had been over international waters at the time, and condemned what it called an “unprovoked attack”.
A total of 28 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships (comprising 25 actual incidents and three attempted incidents) were reported in Asia during January-June 2019 compared to 41 incidents during January-June 2018, which accounts for a 32% decrease, according to ReCAAP ISC’s half yearly report for 2019. Both the total number of incidents and the number of actual incidents this year are the lowest among the 13-year period of January-June of 2007-2019.
Key points January-June 2019
- Majority of the incidents reported during January-June 2019 were incidents of armed robbery against ships.
- Of the 28 incidents, two were incidents of piracy, and 26 were incidents of armed robbery against ships.
- Of the 25 actual incidents reported during January-June 2019, one was CAT 1 incident, two were CAT 2 incidents, two were CAT 3 incidents and 20 were CAT 4 incidents.
- There were no incidents in ports and anchorages in Bangladesh and Vietnam,compared to the same period in 2018 where six incidents were reported in Bangladesh and two incidents in Vietnam. The number of incidents at Indonesia’s ports and anchorages also decreased to nine incidents from 20 during the same period in 2018.
- There was an increase in the number of incidents onboard ships while underway in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore. A total of eight actual incidents were reported in 2019, compared to five (comprising three actual and two attempted incidents) during the same period in 2018. All the eight incidents in 2019 were CAT 4 (or petty theft) incidents.
“Improvements were observed at the ports and anchorages in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam during January-June 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. However, there was an increase in the number of incidents (all CAT 4 incidents) in the Singapore Strait.”
- Of concern was the recurrence of one incident of abduction of crew for ransomon 18 June in the waters off Eastern Sabah, Malaysia. The risk of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah is high as demonstrated by the incident. The coastal States concerned are requested to increase their efforts of enhanced surveillance, patrols and maintain contacts with ships transiting the area.
“The ReCAAP ISC encourages ship masters and crew to exercise enhanced vigilance when transiting areas of concern and make immediate reporting of all incidents to the nearest coastal State. The ReCAAP ISC urges the authorities to provide prompt response to the reports of incidents.”
Significance of incidents
CAT 1 – There was one CAT 1 incident reported during January-June 2019. The incident involved the abduction of nine crew from two fishing boats on 18 June off Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia. The abducted crew members were released on 21 Jun as the abductors could have realised that the abducted crew had no money nor anything to give as ransom.
CAT 2 – The two CAT 2 incidents reported during January-June 2019 occurred at anchorages in Indonesia. In both incidents, the perpetrators were armed with knives. In the incident at the anchorage off Pulau Mapur, the perpetrators held the A/B hostage and stole the crew’s cash and personal belongings. In the incident at Taboneo anchorage, the perpetrators confronted the crew with knives and escaped with ship stores. In both incidents, the crew was not injured.
CAT 3 – There were two CAT 3 incidents reported during January-June 2019, and it was the lowest in number among the 13-year period.
CAT 4 – The majority of the incidents reported during January-June 2019 were CAT 4 incidents, and this accounts for 80% (20 out of 25) of the total number of actual incidents.
“The improvement during January-June 2019 was also due to the decrease in the number of attempted incidents. There was a 75% decrease in the number of attempted incidents during January-June 2019 compared to the same period in 2018.”
Source: SAFETY4SEA, ReECAAP