Only international action will stop increase in piracy: BIMCO

A fresh annual report from the International Maritime Bureau shows that attacks in West Africa helped push piracy numbers up in 2018. In terms of military and law enforcement, an international operation is not complicated, so what is needed above all is the will to act.

According to the bureau’s report, there were 201 incidents in total* reported to the bureau last year. That is a rise from 180 incidents in 2017 and from 191 in 2016. Of this, 48 incidents took place in Nigeria, up from 33 in 2017 and 36 incidents in 2016.

The report also showed that the region saw a considerable spike in violence in the last quarter of the year, with 40 kidnappings in the waters off Nigeria alone. In West Africa, there appears to be challenges with underreporting, which is estimated at as much as 40%, the report says.

Where there is a will…

Turning the tide of piracy and attacks is not a difficult operation in terms of military and law enforcement, according to Jakob P. Larsen, BIMCO Head of Maritime Security. The will to act and get both local and international involvement and cooperation on the other hand, may be.

“To be honest, unless we see international naval support and close cooperation between international navies and local law enforcement, I doubt that we will see the numbers go down in any significant way,” Larsen says.

“Significant capacity building is going on in the region and naval forces are being trained, but these initiatives are all aimed at the longer term and do not solve the problem right now. Therefore, we need to step up the effort. Only then can we really turn the tide on piracy in the region,” he says.

Larsen believes that what is needed is to combine the capacity building with more assets at sea and in the air in order to achieve a more robust local law enforcement.

Not a complicated operation from a military point of view

He has noticed a tendency to believe that because of other marine activity in the area such as supply vessels, fishing vessels and other small boats, an anti-piracy operation would be very difficult, complicated and involve a big risk of firing at the wrong people.

“I don’t agree. I don’t think it is very difficult, nor too risky, and I believe that the challenges are sometimes exaggerated,” Larsen says.

“From a strictly military and law enforcement point of view, this is not a complicated operation, and it has been done before in other parts of the World with success. It may however be complicated from a political point of view. It all comes down to will. If local politicians and the international community are willing to support this, then it can be done relatively easily,” he says.

Today, the local navies are doing a tremendous job with the resources they have available. Battling both insurgencies, terror organisations and other criminal activities however, there is simply not enough law enforcement resources to fully tackle the piracy threat. The result is that pirates continue to strike in the Gulf of Guinea and continue to constitute a big threat to commercial shipping.

“In the light of the new report, showing that piracy rose in 2018, we are once again calling for international navies to deploy to the region of West Africa primarily, and to cooperate closely with law enforcement from the region,” Larsen says and continues:

“This is in the interest of everybody. It is obviously in the interest of the seafarers, but each and every one of the naval powers in the world have a strategic interest in this region, since there is a lot of strategic commodities that comes out of the Gulf of Guinea region. It really is in the interest of the international society to make this trade smoother, and to protect the seafarers on whom we so deeply depend to keep the trade flowing,” Larsen says.

*Corrected from previously stating that the 201 incidents were in Gulf of Guinea alone.




29/05/2019 LC Posn -14.53 – 40.66

Ship’s stores have been stolen from a vessel at the Nacala Inner Anchorage in Mozambique.

The theft was discovered after nightfall on May 26.

Crew noticed access to the forward store had been forced and saw footprints on the forecastle deck.

A search was carried out but no intruders were found.

There have been intermittent reports of thefts and attempted thefts from ships in the inner and outer anchorages at Nacala.

In October 2018 an unidentified individual approached a ship in a small boat and attempted to climb its anchor chain.

There was a similar incident in July 2017 when two potential intruders were spotted approaching a vessel at anchor.

In both cases the boarding attempts were broken off when it was clear they were being observed.

Ship’s crews should be alert to the possibility of intruders and maintain strict watches, especially at night.

Source: Gray Page


One Month Since 2019’s First Piracy Attack Off The Somali Coast

On 21 April, suspected pirates seized a fishing dhow off the coast of Somalia, holding 23 people hostage. In a matter of hours, the European Union’s counter-piracy force EU NAVFOR Somalia Operation Atalanta had responded to the attack. Two days later, the incident was over; Operation Atalanta had detained five suspects and released 23 hostages.

An Attack Dismantled

The incident began when five suspected pirates captured a fishing dhow off the coast of Somalia. The suspects proceeded to navigate the dhow along the coast, where they visited a pirate base camp and reinforced their crew with additional members. Next, using the captured dhow as a mother ship, the suspects attacked another fishing vessel, the FV Adria. This attack took place in the Indian Ocean, some 280 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

In self-preservation, FV Adria then conducted evasive manoeuvres and increased its speed. Another fishing vessel, the FV Txori Argi was also operating in the vicinity at the time and assisted the FV Adria as the suspects continued to chase her. After approximately one hour, the suspects approached both fishing vessels and attacked them with a rocket-propelled grenade. The Private Armed Security Teams (PAST) on board the FV Adria and the FV Txori Argi responded, and the suspects retreated.

               Forces on board the ESPS NAVARRA track the captured dhow on 23 April 2019.

That same day, EU NAVFOR dispatched its Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPRAs) and conducted a regional search, through which they were able to successfully identify and track the captured mother ship.

On 23 April, in collaboration with its MPRAs, EU NAVFOR’s flagship ESPS NAVARRA was able to approach, intercept and board the captured fishing vessel. With the support of the PAST and EU NAVFOR’s various active assets in the region—including the frigate ESPS NAVARRA and MPRAs German JESTER and Spanish CISNE—Operation Atalanta was able to control the situation and prevent any further imminent attacks.

“This incident clearly demonstrates that piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia have not been eradicated,” said Operation Commander Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave in an interview. “The need for a strong maritime security presence in the High-Risk Area remains critical for the deterrence and prevention of future incidents and attacks.”

Following the attack, Operation Atalanta urged the maritime industry to remain vigilant across the High-Risk Area and to comply with recommended Best Management Practises for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy, as supported by EU NAVFOR’s Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA). MSCHOA last updated the Best Management Practises for public reference in 2015, at the height of piracy attacks in the High-Risk Area.

Behind The Scenes

Lesser known to the public, however, was the fact that at the time of these attacks in April, Operation Atalanta was still in the midst of an important transition. Just three weeks before the attack—the first since October of last year—Operation Atalanta officially moved from its previous Operation Headquarters (OHQ) in Northwood, U.K., to its new OHQ in Rota, Spain. MSCHOA also moved from OHQ in Northwood to Brest, France, although it remains under command of OHQ in Rota. Additionally, the operation transferred command from Major General Charlie Stickland, UK Royal Marines, to Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave, Spanish Navy.

Major General Charlie Stickland, UK Royal Marines, transfers command of Operation Atalanta to Rear Admiral Antonio Martorell Lacave, Spanish Navy on 29 March 2019.

The handover and transfer of command was a careful process that lasted nearly a year in its entirety. After all arrangements for location, staffing and training were complete, the transitional phase also involved one month of parallel operational running between Northwood and Rota. However, one would never know it by the operational fluidity that the headquarters maintained throughout the process, and continues to demonstrate today. Highly skilled staff—some from the previous OHQ in Northwood, UK and some new to Operation Atalanta—maintained near perfect continuity throughout the transition.

Operation Atalanta Commander Rear Admiral Martorell Lacave says the manner in which Operation Atalanta handled this first piracy attack in its new OHQ is representative of the commitment and responsibility each branch of the operation feels to their duty.

“I am very confident in the capabilities of the staff in all branches of EU NAVFOR’s Operation and Force Headquarters,” he said. “As we have seen with this most recent incident, we continue to provide the same level and quality of operational outputs from Rota as were previously provided in Northwood.”




28/05/2019 LC Posn -3.64 – 114.512

A bulk carrier has been boarded by armed intruders while waiting in the Taboneo Anchorage, off Indonesia’s South Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo.

The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) piracy reporting centre said seven intruders carrying knives boarded the vessel shortly after dark on May 23.

They threatened the bulker’s crew, stole ship’s property and escaped.

The Indonesian authorities were informed and a patrol boat was sent to investigate.

There is a history of vessels being boarded by thieves at the Taboneo Anchorage.

In February 2019 two intruders were seen trying to board a bulk carrier by climbing the anchor chain.

In March 2018 six intruders armed with knives were spotted on the deck of an anchored bulker. They fled when an alarm was raised.

There were also reports of boardings and attempted boardings in 2016 and 2017.

Crews should be vigilant while in the anchorage and be alert for the approach of small craft.

Vessels are at their most vulnerable during the hours of darkness.

Robbers have generally fled when confronted.


Source: Gray Page


First CAT 2 incident in 2019 off Indonesia, crew held hostage

In its weekly report for 21-27 May, ReCAAP ISC reported two incidents of armed robbery against ships in Asia. The one of them is Category 4, which means the perpetrators were not armed, and the crew not harmed, but the other one was a Category 2, which means a moderately significant incident, with crew held hostage. Both incidents occurred in Indonesia.

The Category 2 incident occurred approximately 4 nm east of Pulau Mapur on 13 May, involving the Chinese-flagged general cargo ship ‘Da Yang Bai Li’.

While underway, four perpetrators armed with long knives boarded the ship. The perpetrators entered the cabins of the master and an A/B and tied them up.

They then stole cash and personal effects of the master and A/B, cut the Inmarsat Telephone line and escaped.

“This is the first Category 2 incident reported in 2019 which involved the crew being held hostage by perpetrators armed with knives.”

The Category 4 incident occurred at Lubuk Gaung anchorage in Dumai on 11 May, involving the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier ‘Princess Paula’.

While at anchor, the 3rd Engineer of the bulk carrier discovered that the spare part room in the main engine room had been broken into. Some engine spares were stolen.

The master raised the alarm and a search was conducted. The crew was not injured.

“The ReCAAP ISC urges ship master and crew to report all incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships to the nearest coastal State and flag State, exercise vigilance and adopt relevant preventive measures taking reference from the Regional Guide to Counter Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia.”


Status of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes seas

Based on the latest report from the Philippine Focal Point, no crew remains in captivity.

From the 66 crew who had been abducted since March 2016:

  • 37 were released,
  • 19 were rescued
  • 10 were killed or died.

The rescue and release of the abducted crew is the result of the intensified military and law enforcement operations of the Philippine authorities, ReCAAP ISC noted.

“As the threat of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off eastern Sabah remains, ReCAAP ISC maintains its advisory issued via the ReCAAP ISC Incident Alert dated 21 Nov 16 to all ships to reroute from the area, where possible. Otherwise, ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance while transiting the area, and report immediately to the Operation Centres of Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.”




Four robbers armed with long knives boarded a general cargo ship underway off an Indonesian island, south of the Singapore Strait.

The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) piracy reporting centre said the attack took place shortly after midnight on May 13.

The robbers boarded the vessel four nautical miles (nm) off Pulau Mapur, a small island some 35 nm from the eastern end of the Strait.

The robbers seized a crew member and forced their way into the Master’s cabin.

Both the crew member and the Master were tied up. The robbers then escaped with cash and personal belongings.

The attack on the general cargo ship closely resembled a robbery against a bulk carrier in the same sea area on November 5, 2018.

In both cases robbers armed with knives boarded vessels under cover of darkness while the ships were underway near the Indonesian island of Pulau Mapur.

In both cases crew members were threatened before the robbers escaped with personal property and cash.

Pulau Mapur is close to Indonesia’s Bintan Island which lies on the south-eastern side of the Singapore Strait.

There is a history of vessels being boarded while at anchor or underway off Bintan.

Intruders have often been armed with knives and machetes. They have generally stolen crew member’s belongings, cash and engine spares.

Ships should be vigilant when off Bintan and in the southern waters of the South China Sea.

They should be especially alert at night and when close to the coast.

An alarm should be raised if any small vessels make a suspicious approach.

Source: Gray Page



A barge under tow in the Singapore Strait has been boarded by thieves.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery in Asia (ReCAAP) said incident happened on May 18.

It took place in the westbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), 3.3 nautical miles (nm) southeast of Tanjung Piai in Malaysia.

The Master of the tug boat with the barge under tow radioed the Singapore Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) to say six perpetrators had boarded the barge from a small boat.

The intruders stole some tools and then left.

ReCAAP recorded four incidents of vessels being boarded by intruders in the western sector of Singapore Strait, close to Tanjung Piai, in the first four months of 2019.

Three of the cases involved barges under tow and one a dredger.

In two cases thieves escaped with scrap metal. In the other two cases nothing was stolen.

All ships, particularly tug boats, should maintain a high level of vigilance when entering the Singapore Strait Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS).

If suspicious boats attempt to come alongside an alarm should be raised and the maritime authorities alerted.

Source: Gray Page


EU to provide 155 million euros in boosting security in Gulf of Guinea

Mr Kurt Cornelis, Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, announced in a press conference that the EU decided to support the implementation of strategies in maritime, fisheries and illegal drug trafficking that are taking place in the Gulf of Guinea.

According to Mr Cornelis, noted that despite security efforts there are still major threats in the Gulf, making the region the most dangerous in the world for piracy and robbery at sea for year 2018.

He continued that the EU is committed to support regional efforts to improve the security in the area, and support the developing capacity of coastal states.

“To this end, EU regional programs and the Gulf of Guinea dedicated to security, are currently worth more than 155 million euros. The Government not only supports the implementation of ECOWAS strategies, such as the integrated maritime security, but also the regional strategy to fight elicits, drug trafficking and illegal fishing.”

… Mr Cornelis highlighted.

The Combined Maritime Forces had establish a security corridor off Horn of Africa, the Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Kurt Cornelis, said this at the opening of a two-day maritime stakeholders information and coordination meeting on maritime security in Abuja.

In the meantime, Gen. Francis Benhazin, ECOWAS Commissioner, Political Affairs, Peace and Security, commented in reporters that the collaboration aims to find solutions to the existing problems and create a synergy of action to tackle the illegal actions taking place, in light of a protected maritime sector.



One Month After Hijacking NIMASA Reveals Hijacked Tanker Was Involved In Illegal Entries and Identity Fraud

May 22: After one month of silence over the hijacking and subsequent kidnapping of seven crew, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has stated that it is collaborating with the Nigerian Navy, the Indian High Commission in Nigeria and other security agencies to ensure the release of the Palau-flagged Tanker, MT APECUS (also known as MADINA).

However, NIMASA DG alleged that the tanker had been trading on Nigerian waters illegally and that the ship had changed identities several times. He stated, “Preliminary investigations carried out by NIMASA into the vessel involved have thrown up several unresolved facts. Firstly, the MT APECUS has been conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without any valid permits or documentation”.

He added, “it was further observed that the vessel has changed name and the flag under which she operates on no less than a combined 15 recorded instances with an additional five changes in call sign since 1993 and four MMSI changes which all point to her suspected involvement in illegal activities”.

“Before her hijack, she was spotted in Lome, Togo on the 26th of February, 2019 for an hour, Tema, Ghana for two hours on the 27th of February, 2019 and Lagos anchorage for twenty nine minutes on 2nd April 2019 until her eventual hijack on the 19th of April”.

NIMASA further alleged that “reports also indicate the vessel was in the habit of switching off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) in order to avoid detection and had done the same thing prior to being attacked which had made locating her whereabouts extremely difficult. There is no clarity on her business in Bonny area where the incident occurred”.

Source: Maritime Security Review


Attacking Gulf oil routes exposes alternatives to Hormuz

Attacks on Saudi and UAE oil assets built to bypass the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically important waterway in the Gulf, have raised fears that alternative routes could be vulnerable.

Four ships including two Saudi oil tankers were damaged in mysterious sabotage attacks Sunday off Fujairah, an emirate located at the crucial entrance to the Gulf.

That incident was followed by drone strikes Tuesday by Yemen’s Huthi rebels on a major Saudi oil pipeline, which provided an alternative export route if the Strait of Hormuz closed.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to prevent shipping in Hormuz in case of a military confrontation with the United States, which has imposed sanctions on Tehran in recent months.

Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri warned last month “other countries’ oil will certainly not cross the strait” if Tehran’s own exports are blocked.

Almost all the oil exports of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran itself, at least 15 million barrels per day, are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz.

– ‘Not practical’ –

“I think that the existing alternative routes for oil exports are not sufficient and not practical,” Kuwaiti oil expert Kamel al-Harami said.

“Most importantly, these routes are away from the main markets in Asia,” Harami told AFP.

Non-oil imports worth hundreds of billions of dollars also pass through Hormuz, making it one of the most vital maritime links in the world.

Halting navigation in Hormuz, a narrow chokepoint at the mouth of the Gulf, would likely send oil prices soaring to over $100 a barrel and substantially disrupt supplies, he said.

Crude was trading at $72.80 per barrel at 0400 GMT on Friday.

Gulf states, mainly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have been working on alternative routes to bypass the strait.

Riyadh has built a 1,200-kilometre (750-mile) East West Pipeline, able to pump five million barrels of oil a day from Saudi’s Eastern Province to a Red Sea port.

The kingdom is working to raise its capacity to seven million bpd.

The UAE has also built a 406-kilometre pipeline from Abu Dhabi to the emirate of Fujairah on the Arabian Sea, outside Hormuz, which has a capacity of 1.6 million bpd.

Fujairah boasts a huge storage area capable of holding some 70 million barrels, with a second such facility in the works there for 42 million barrels.

– Regional tensions –

Other Gulf states have built smaller storage in countries such as South Korea.

“Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a safe, reliable supplier of oil. The attacks challenge this position,” Houston-based oil expert Anas Alhajji wrote on Twitter.

He described the attacks as “significant” since these pipelines aim to reduce Iran’s influence on the oil flow by bypassing Hormuz.

Alhajji however insisted that Saudi oil installations are well-protected and the attackers focused on the most remote, most vulnerable installations.

Oil transit was disrupted in 1984 during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) when more than 500 vessels were destroyed or damaged in the so-called “Tanker War”.

Regional tensions have soared since US President Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal with Iran a year ago and imposed a stifling oil embargo on the Islamic republic.

“Markets will always be jittery after a threat to chokepoints, and this can go well beyond oil prices, as many other commodities pass the Strait of Hormuz,” Karen E. Young, from the American Enterprise Institute, told AFP.

Although the Gulf oil exporters will be the main losers, the closure would also punish Asian oil importers — mainly China, Japan and South Korea — which depend for more than half of their energy needs on Middle East imports.


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