On 25th March 2019, a delegation from EU NAVFOR together with EUCAP Somalia met in Bossasso with the Puntland Minister of Ports and Maritime Crime Prevention, Mohamed Abdi Osman, to exchange views on the security situation at sea and to identify opportunities for further collaboration and cooperation. The Minister was accompanied during the meeting by his Deputy Minister, the Governor of Bari, the Mayor of Bosasso as well as representatives from the Bosasso Port Maritime Police Unit as well as the Puntland Maritime Police Force.

The Force Commander of Operation ATALANTA, Rear Admiral (ES Navy) Ricardo Hernandez together with the strategic advisor of the EUCAP Somalia Field Office GaroweMr. Aaro Suonio, congratulated the Minister on his assignment and confirmed the intent to continue with the close relationship.  Located at the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, Puntland is a key partner for EUCAP Somalia to enhance maritime law enforcement capabilities such as the Bosasso Port Maritime Police Unit or the Joint Maritime Information and Coordination Centre (JMICC), providing accurate information and response options to the Puntland Authorities with regard to maritime security and safety related issues.

EU NAVFOR continues to operate in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Western Indian Ocean to allow the free flow of commerce to flourish. During the course of counter-piracy operations, EU NAVFOR regularly interacts with local security forces such as the Puntland Maritime Police Force, the Bosasso Port Maritime Police Force and local authorities from coastal communities to better assess the situation at sea.

During the meeting Rear Admiral Ricardo Hernandez stated that EU NAVFOR remains committed to play its part in the wider regional maritime security architecture to protect the free flow of commerce. He stated that: “What we see in Bosasso here today is testament to the efforts of Somali authorities to enhance maritime security. I will continue to interact closely with regional authorities and regional forces to ensure that maritime trade continues.”

The European Union has provided strong support in the maritime domain through security, capacity-building and various economic development programmes. By means of example EU NAVFOR supported the implementation of a UNFAO project financed by the EU aimed to enhance the capacities of fishing communities along the Somali coast including Puntland in October 2018 whilst EUCAP continues to work closely with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to train local security forces.



Shipment of Bomb-Making Components Intercepted in Sulu Sea

Philippine Marine troops have intercepted a shipment of bomb-making components at the Sulu Sea, military officials said Friday.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson, Col. Gerry Besana, said the shipment was intercepted off Simusa Island, Baguingui, Sulu at about 5:45 p.m. Thursday.

Besana said the Marines’ 83rd and 84th Inshore Boat Companies were on seaborne patrol when they chanced upon a motorboat with four people on board.

He said the motorboat was found to be loaded with 38 sacks of ammonium nitrate when the troops inspected the watercraft.

The ammonium nitrate is being used by lawless elements, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), to assemble improvised bombs, although it is predominantly used in agriculture as a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Besana said the ammonium nitrate from Laminusa Island in the town of Siasi, Sulu and was en route to Basilan province when intercepted by the troops.

He said the four people aboard the motorboat — whose names were withheld — were turned over to Col. Armel Tolato, commander of the Philippine Marine Ready Force – Sulu.

The four were placed under custodial debriefing at the tactical command post of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 and will be turned over to the Banguingui municipal police for disposition and filing of appropriate charges.

Lt. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Westmincom chief, said the shipment of bomb-making component came after the Navy and Marine troops boosted their maritime patrols to secure the waters of Western Mindanao.

“Sailors and Marines operate in maritime areas of Western Mindanao to curb smuggling and other illegal activities that affect the security and development in Mindanao,” dela Vega added.

Source: Maritime Security Review


Nigeria: Piracy Attacks in Nigeria Linked to Insider Collusion

Piracy attacks in the country have been linked to crew members that are off duty leading others to attack their own vessels. This is even as stakeholders have called for improved safety and security training for seafarers to ward off piracy attacks on the nation’s waterways.

Retired Naval Admiral Dele Ezioba, who spoke at the meeting organised by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, NCS, in Lagos said nine out of every 10 pirate attacks on the nation’s waterways have insider inputs.

Ezioba recalled an incidence where a crew member of a particular ship that was off duty leading a group to attack his vessels.

He stressed that the safety of the ship is the duty of the Captain, the crew members and the owner of the ship.

He also suggested that the Nigerian Navy should be the lead agency in the fight to combat piracy.

Ezioba further pointed out that the absence of an efficient regulatory body is responsible for the lapses presently witnessed in the nation’s maritime domain.

He said that maritime incidents here in the country are first reported to International Maritime Bureau, IMB based in Singapore from where the authorities in Nigeria are informed about such developments.

In such situations he continued, the story could have been distorted by the time it gets back to the country.

According to him, “If there is a shipping problem in Nigeria, the International Maritime Bureau, IBM based in Singapore gets to know first and they in turn inform Nigeria institutions.”



Boundaries for High Risk Area (HRA) in the Indian Ocean Reduced

The Round Table of international shipping associations plus the OCIMF, representing the global shipping and oil industry have announced that the geographic boundaries of the ‘High Risk Area’ (HRA) for piracy in the Indian Ocean have been reduced, with new advice issued to merchant ship operators.

The High Risk Area reflects the area where the threat from piracy exists, whilst recognising the ongoing containment of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean. The industry group of shipping and oil industry organisations (BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF)) responsible for setting the High Risk Area emphasised that a serious threat remains despite the reduction to the area’s geographic boundaries and that correct reporting, vigilance and adherence to the 5th edition of the best management practice (BMP5) remains crucial.

The reduction to the High Risk Area takes full account of recent shipping industry experience, pirate intent and capability and follows extensive consultation with nations, collations and military naval forces, including Combined Maritime Forces, EUNAVFOR and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which continue to provide vital advice and protection to shipping.

The regional UKHO Maritime Security Chart, Q6099 will be updated by Notice to Mariners and a new version produced to reflect these changes which take effect from 01 May 2019.

The advice can be downloaded via the industry organisations website.

In summary:

  • The area previously classified as “high risk” forms only a part of the area called the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA). ;
  • Ships entering the VRA are encouraged to report to the UKMTO to be monitored during transit and register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA);
  • Pre-transit risk assessments should take into account the latest information from both the VRA and High Risk Area.

The industry associations further emphasised that in view of the continuing threat of pirate attacks, shipping companies must continue to maintain full compliance with BMP5 and be vigilant in their voluntary reporting on piracy incidents, sighting of potential pirates, and any suspicious activity – as this provides crucial intelligence on risk levels in the area.

The new coordinates of the HRA are:

In the Southern Red Sea: Northern Limit: Latitude 15 o 00’N
In the Indian Ocean a line linking:
From the territorial waters off the coast of east Africa at Latitude 05 o 00’S to 050 o 00’E
Then to positions:

Lat: 00o 00’N
Long: 055 o 00’E

Lat: 10o 00’N
Long: 060 o 00’E

Lat: 14o 00’N
Long: 060o 00’E

Then a bearing 310o to the territorial waters of the Arabian Peninsula.

The industry associations will continue to monitor developments to the security situation, and will adjust the HRA again if and when the situation warrants it.

Source: Maritime Security Review


Keeping abreast of maritime security measures in Asia

Emerging maritime challenges were at the forefront of discussions at the 11th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security in Da Nang, Viet Nam, (14-15 March).

Participants had the opportunity to exchange views on regional maritime issues, review progress of their maritime security work plan, and discuss proposed activities over the coming year.

IMO took the opportunity to update ARF members on IMO’s work in Asia and told senior maritime officials of potential future technical cooperation projects in the region. IMO also talked about improving the implementation, among ASEAN members, of maritime security measures, including the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS).

The forum also discussed three priority areas, namely maritime security and cooperation; safety of navigation; and marine environment and sustainable development. More specifically they looked at patrols in the Sulu Sea, the importance of international cooperation and capacity building, as well as managing cyber risks in the shipping industry.

The meeting was chaired by Australia, Viet Nam and the EU.



UK, Seychelles cooperate to tackle piracy in the Indian Ocean

The UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) has presented Security of Navigation, Stabilisation Advice and Training (SONSAT) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles. The training is designed to improve maritime security and safety of navigation in the Indian Ocean by helping Seychelles share crucial maritime safety information with ships and partners in the region.

Piracy at sea can puts the security of trade routes at risk, costing the international economy about US $7 to $12 billion every year. With some of the world’s busiest trade routes passing through Seychelles, piracy is a big concern for the country its neighbours.

To address this situation, authorities must understand their responsibilities when broadcasting maritime safety information, so they can inform ships in the area of issues that could threaten their safety, UKHO says.

To achieve this aim, UKHO experts conducted a series of maritime security capability development seminars and intelligence briefs to government officials in the Seychelles from 18 – 22 February 2019. One area of focus regarded increasing awareness of current infrastructure and services, like the World-Wide Navigational Warning Service (WWNWS) and Rescue Coordination Centres (RCCs). These could help them communicate important security information in the region.

Namely, UKHO delegates provided advice and guidance on how to coordinate operations between these services effectively and within the realms of the required legal framework.

This training is part of UK’s effort to enhance maritime capability and security in the Indian Ocean region and support the Regional Centre for Operation Coordination (RCOC) in Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles.

Paul Merchant, SONSAT Capability Development Manager at UKHO, explained that the training is specifically tailored to the needs of Seychelles, and added that:

“By working together with the Seychelles to improve Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in the region, and by building awareness of the legalities and obligations placed upon nations when broadcasting maritime safety information, we can help tackle the issues that threaten the safety of our merchant mariners”



Pirates fire upon offshore supply vessel off Nigeria

Two speed boats with 16 armed persons onboard chased and fired upon an offshore supply vessel, while the vessel was sailing around 30 nautical miles southwest of Bonny Island, Nigeria.

Sources identify the ship as the French-flagged ‘PSV Bourbon Explorer 502’.

According to data provided by IMB piracy reporting centre, the incident occurred in the morning hours of 28th February. Crew raised the alarm, while the vessel increased speed and commenced evasive manoeuvres. All of the non-essential crew mustered in the citadel.

The escorting security vessel intervened to repel the attack. The ship sustained a bullet damage on the bridge.

There were no reported injuries. The Nigerian Navy escorted the vessel to a safe port.

This was not the case for another offshore support vessel sailing in Nigerian waters, off Brass, earlier in March. Pirates armed with machine guns in two speed boats approached the vessel underway, boarded the ship with an elongated ladder, stole crew’s belongings and kidnapped five men.

In addition, there are reports that one Nigerian Navy armed guard was killed during exchange of fire.

Sharing figures for 2018, IMB said attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom.



After ten years of Piracy in the Indian Ocean region, is Somali Piracy still a threat?

On 6 November the United Nations (UN) Security Council renewed the authorization for international naval forces to carry out anti-piracy measures off Somalia’s coast. It is now 10 years since the first resolution was passed in 2008 to respond to piracy and robbery against humanitarian and commercial ships in the region.

At the time, piracy was considered a major threat to both local and global peace and security. Since then, and especially since 2013, the number of attacks and hijackings has dropped. Recent incidents have however raised concerns over the long-term sustainability of counter-piracy measures and whether enough is being done on land to increase the resilience of Somali communities and prevent a resurgence of piracy.

In the most recent attack on 16 October, four men attempted to board the bulk carrier MV KSL Sydney around 340 nautical miles (630km) off the coast of Mogadishu, opening fire on the ship. The pirates aborted the attack after private security guards on board returned fire. The European Union Naval Force, as part of Operation Atalanta, tracked down and destroyed a whaler ship believed to have been that of the attackers.

This is only the second piracy attack off the coast of Somalia reported this year, which is dramatically down from the 160 piracy incidents reported during the height of the problem in 2011.

The long-term success of counter-piracy measures depends on a stable and unified Somali state.
The attack’s failure shows that current counter-piracy tactics on board vessels, prescribed by the latest iteration of Best Management Practices, remain effective at preventing pirates from boarding and capturing vessels. The aim of these best practices is to address the vulnerabilities often exploited by pirates, thereby significantly increasing the risks for pirates.
The recent UN secretary-general’s report on piracy and armed robbery off Somalia’s coast attributes the low number of attacks to successful global collaboration and the ongoing work of regional organizations like the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

The report also cites the continued enforcement measures of international naval forces, and the extensive military, naval and donor support of the international community. Navies, either in coordination with the European Union Naval Force and the Combined Maritime Forces, or deployed outside of them such as South Africa’s Operation Copper, help disrupt pirate activities.

Despite these short-term successes, the international community’s attempts to address the root causes of piracy in Somalia itself, through capacity building initiatives and donor activities, are not yet effective enough.

While many of Somalia’s pirate foot soldiers languish in jail, the kingpins remain at large
The secretary-general’s report lists notable successes in counter-piracy efforts by the Somali government, but says the root causes of piracy still need to be fully addressed. Among them are poverty and a lack of employment opportunities in Somalia’s coastal communities, as well as a lack of legal, governance and maritime infrastructure.
The activities of pirate groups must be understood in the broader context of Somalia’s ongoing crisis. The crisis has allowed the root causes for the emergence and proliferation of these groups to continue for two reasons.

First, competition between political factions in Somalia has left poverty unaddressed. This undermines sustainable development and the creation of economic alternatives. People are drawn to piracy and other illegal activities with the promise of, if not wealth, a stable income.
Somalia is mired in a zero-sum internal political struggle, with federal states and groups competing for power and resources in the areas they are able to govern. Political stability in Somalia would allow for economic alternatives to illegal activities.

Second, according to the recent report by the Centre for Military Studies from the University of Copenhagen, some of the criminal networks responsible for piracy are still around. While many so-called pirate foot soldiers languish in jail, the ‘kingpins’ remain at large.
Puntland has taken effective counter-piracy measures to drive away pirate groups and secure the coast

The report argues that pirate groups shifted their focus away from piracy towards more profitable illegal activities. For these criminal networks, the defining factor is opportunity and revenue. While navies stationed in the region can increase the risks and costs for pirates, they don’t get involved in the prosecution of human trafficking, arms smuggling and other illegal activities. In the absence of criminal justice, the groups continue to profit by other means.

A more coherent regional effort to address smuggling would help stop the money flow that fuels these groups. However, situations such as Yemen’s ongoing war create ungoverned spaces for criminal networks to function and prosper.

The conditions needed for long-term solutions to piracy remain absent. At the core of the problem is Somalia’s dependency on the presence of foreign navies and international support for stability and security. Somalia doesn’t have the capacity to handle the issue without foreign help. Comprehensive counter-piracy efforts must keep the pressure on pirate groups while addressing the root causes that enable these networks to emerge.
Puntland has been successfully fighting piracy since 2008. Once a centre of pirate activity, the federal state has taken proactive and effective counter-piracy measures – like establishing a maritime police force – to drive away pirate groups and secure the coast. This has driven the network to the nearby autonomous region of Galmudug.

Puntland’s success story may help shape and define a Somali-owned approach to counter-piracy. But long-term achievements depend on a stable and unified Somali state. As long as the root causes of pirate groups are not addressed, the threat of a resurgence in piracy will hover on the horizon.



Piracy on Nigerian waters: The truth

Globally, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre, based in Singapore, recorded 201 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery in 2018, up from 180 in 2017. The Gulf of Guinea remained increasingly dangerous for seafarers as reports of attacks in waters between the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo more than doubled in 2018.

The expansion of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea poses a dire threat to local economies, potentially undermining what little stability currently exists in the region. Oil revenue, which many countries in the region rely upon, is seriously threatened by pirate activity; 7 per cent of Nigeria’s oil wealth is believed lost due to such criminality.

Additionally, instability in the Gulf has sharply decreased revenue collected from trade; Benin, whose economy depends on taxing ships entering the port of Cotonou, has experienced a 70 per cent decline in shipping activity due to piracy.

Furthermore, as piracy drives up insurance premiums for international shipping companies, the price of imported goods in the region could spike, further imperilling local economies.

On its part, the Federal Government of Nigeria is currently working assiduously to ensure that the Nigerian Maritime domain and indeed the Gulf of Guinea is safe for local and international shipping and has taken several proactive steps to ensure this dream is actualized.

The primary approach is in ensuring that all legal loopholes related to the prosecution of offenders are plugged.

The proposed legislation, widely known as the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2018, is being sponsored by NIMASA and has been presented to the National Assembly where it has passed the first and second hearing stages and should be passed into law in 2019:

The Bill incorporates the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea (SUA) conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) into comprehensive legislation to deal with the menace of piracy and related crimes in the Nigerian maritime domain.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the acquisition of maritime security assets under the ‘Deep Blue Project’ which will cover aerial, joint maritime and shore surveillance systems as well as physical patrols of our coastal and Gulf of Guinea waters.

The project is an all-encompassing security scheme aimed at maintaining a 24-hrs eagle eye view of our maritime domain and has been midwifed by NIMASA under the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).

On its part, the Executive Management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) under the leadership of Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside is fully aware of the economic losses resulting from maritime insecurity and the consequent high costs, for stakeholders, involved in adopting extra security measures and insurance premiums.

NIMASA as the Designated Authority (DA) responsible for administering the maritime industry, while ensuring safer and more secure waters, has adopted a Total Spectrum Strategy to combat insecurity in the nation’s coastal waters and in the greater Gulf of Guinea area.

The Agency’s Management is also aware of the effect of marine insecurity on maritime-related businesses culminating in reduced employment and business opportunities in the Nigerian maritime industry not to mention the negative international media coverage which in itself is bad for attracting and sustaining investments into the sector.

The Nigerian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at Kirikiri Lagos will considerably enhance the dissemination of information in the Nigerian Maritime Domain.

The incident reports from Masters of Ships/Skippers on piracy attacks or suspicious crafts will promptly be relayed to the Nigerian Navy for immediate response. Distress messages will henceforth be directly intercepted by the RMRCC thus eliminating the delay in relayed messages.

The Agency is working out modalities to ensure that all Shipowners install Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) which when triggered onboard will automatically alert the MRCC and Naval Authorities of any piracy attack. At the bilateral level, Nigeria has been at the forefront of enhancing cooperation aimed at improving security in the Gulf of Guinea.

This is demonstrated by the concluded joint maritime security patrols carried out with the Benin Republic tagged “Operation Prosperity” which succeeded in reducing the number of pirate attacks off the coast of both countries.

Participation in regional exercises has also yielded positive results with the GoG member states now conducting cross-border patrols, sharing law-enforcement intelligence, establishing and maintaining joint coordination centres through the implementation of a regional strategy.

The US Navy component of AFRICOM has been conducting exercises such as Obangame and Saharan Express to reinforce and activate operational agreements.

In this regard, the Agency fully participated in the 2018 version of the Obangame Express held in the GoG Region. Another example of international partnerships entered into by NIMASA in efforts to eradicate maritime insecurity involved NIMASA’s exercise tagged ‘Operation 30 Days At Sea’ which saw INTERPOL in conjunction with the NIMASA, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Navy amongst others to conduct patrols in GoG territorial waters in 2018.

It is a peculiarity of how piracy incidents are reported that leaves the Gulf of Guinea open to exaggerated security threat levels. A situation where every incident of maritime crime regardless of nature and scale are reported as ‘Piracy’, it is inevitable that figures reflecting on these would be higher than they would ordinarily have been.

For example, information from the ICC-IMB indicates 149 recorded incidents of piracy and 34 attempted piracy attacks whereas statistics from the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) show that there were only 31 cases of piracy and 18 cases of attempted piracy in Nigerian territorial waters in the same period under-reportage.

Bearing in mind that most of the cases reported involved opportunistic theft from vessels and activities of oil bunkerers, it is unfortunate that the optics of violent, armed pirates roaming the GoG with impunity continue to pervade international media coverage whereas this is very far from the reality. NIMASA, on its part, has raised the issue of misrepresentation by the IMB to the International Maritime Organisation, at its annual meetings on numerous occasions highlighting the inconsistencies in the reportage of piracy incidents and the negative effects that has on the perception of the Gulf of Guinea maritime area.

Regardless, Nigeria’s maritime territory and the Gulf of Guinea at large remain very viable domains that must be secured in view of the fact that activities within this domain are significant to the economic well-being of our nation and the sub-region.

By securing this strategic area, we would be encouraging further commercial engagements with the international shipping community, which translates to an additional boost to our national and regional economies.

Clearly, the truth about piracy in our waters is that NIMASA has acquitted her responsibilities in securing our territorial waters commendably despite ongoing challenges and has contributed, through aggressive implementation of drawn up strategies and collaboration with international agencies and Gulf of Guinea countries, to improve the security situation in the region’s maritime space.



Nigerian Pirates Kidnap Five After Firefight with Escort Boat

According to the ICC IMB’s Piracy Report, Nigerian pirates kidnapped five crewmembers from an OSV in the Gulf of Guinea last weekend despite the efforts of a security escort vessel. After an active firefight between the escort and the attackers, pirates boarded the target vessel, ransacked its cabins and made off with the victims.

At about 1115 hours UTC on Saturday, at a position about 30 nm off Brass, Nigeria, armed pirates in two speed boats approached an OSV under way. The OSV’s captain called for help from what IMB ICC described as a “naval escort security boat,” which maneuvered to engage the attackers. One speed boat closed in from port side of the vessel and crossed the bow, while the other speed boat exchanged fire with the security boat.

To defend themselves against the attack, the OSV’s crew gathered in the engine room and shut down all power. The pirates in the second speedboat boarded the vessel using a ladder. They broke into the deckhouse, vandalized the cabins and took crew belongings and vessel’s equipment. The pirates then proceeded to the engine room, kidnapped five men and escaped. The remaining crews sailed the vessel under escort to a safe anchorage.

One Nigerian Navy armed guard was reportedly killed in the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates.

Nigeria forbids the presence of embarked private maritime security contractors at its seaports. This effectively prohibits Gulf of Guinea vessel operators from using on-board armed guards, which have proven successful in deterring pirates in the high-risk area off Somalia. Instead, Nigeria permits private contractors to provide for-hire Security Escort Vessel (SEV) services using civilian boats and armed Nigerian Navy active duty servicemembers. According to one well-regarded security services firm, this system has historically been challenged by “extremely high costs and issues of poor performance and reliability.”

Source: The Maritime Executive

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