RMI warns extra vigilance to ships transiting Red Sea

The Republic of Marshall Islands maritime administration (RMI) issued a ship security advisory to shipping, warning that the conflict in Yemen continues to pose potential risk to RMI-flagged vessels transiting the southern Red Sea, Bab el Mandeb Strait, and Gulf of Aden, despite the current limited cease-fire between the Houthis and the Saudi Arabian-led coalition.

Threats may come from a variety of different sources including, but not limited to, missiles, rockets, projectiles, mines, small arms, unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned surface vessels, or waterborne improvised explosive devices, the warning highlights.

Additionally, piracy still poses a threat in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Gulf of Oman.

Recommendations

Vessels are advised to review security assessments and plans, ensure AIS and LRIT is always transmitting (except in extraordinary circumstances, consistent with SOLAS), and monitor VHF Channel 16.

  1. Due to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, RMI flagged vessels transiting the Southern Red Sea, Bal el Mandeb, or Gulf of Aden should operate under a heightened state of alert due to the potential for direct or collateral damage. These threats may come from a variety of different sources including, but not limited to, missiles, projectiles, mines, small arms, or waterborne improvised explosive devices.
  2. RMI flagged vessels are advised to avoid entering or loitering near Yemen’s Red Sea ports. Vessels at anchor, operating in restricted maneuvering environments, or proceeding at slow speeds should be especially vigilant.
  3. Conduct a pre-voyage risk assessment and incorporate appropriate protective measures into the Ship Security Plan.
  4. BMP5 and the Maritime Global Security website should be consulted prior to operating in the above listed geographic areas.
  5. The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) has been established to maintain freedom of navigation, international law, and free flow of commerce to support stability and security of the maritime commons in the Persian/Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, and the Bab el Mandeb. The IMSC is currently supported by Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK and US.

Reporting

RMI flagged vessels operating in these areas are advised to report any incidents or suspicious activities to US or Coalition Naval Vessels on VHF Channel 16. In addition:

  • For the Red Sea. Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf: Simultaneously register with both the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Office (UKMTO) and the US Naval Forces Central Command Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NAVCENT NCAGS) Watch 24 hours prior to entering the Indian Ocean Voluntary Reporting Area by sending UKMTO and NAVCENT NCAGS, via a single e-mail, the Initial Report from Annex D of Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Safety in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea (BMP5).
  • Include the estimated times of arrival at the Suez Canal, Bab el Mandeb Strait (BAM), and Strait of Hormuz (SoH) in Line 10 of the report, and add a line 14 for comments as needed (e.g., speed restrictions or other constraints, anticipated time of entering/exiting the SoH Traffic Separation Scheme; an outline of the navigation plan for operating in the SoH and Persian Gulf, etc.).
  • In the event of an incident or suspicious activity, call UKMTO or the US Fifth Fleet Battle Watch and activate the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) immediately.
  • Answer all VHF calls professionally. DO NOT IGNORE.
  • Utilize other reporting forms included in Annex D of BMP5 as necessary, including both UKMTO and NAVCENT NCAGS on each of these reports.
  • All vessels should be aware that US and other coalition naval forces may conduct maritime awareness calls, queries, and approaches to ensure the safety of vessels transiting the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, and Arabian Sea. If an RMI flagged vessel suspects it is being hailed from a source falsely claiming to be a US or coalition naval vessel, UKMTO and the US Fifth Fleet Battle Watch should be immediately informed.
  • If hailed by non-coalition forces, provide vessel name, flag state, and affirm that the vessel is proceeding in accordance with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. The master should immediately inform UKMTO and the US Fifth Fleet Battle Watch.
  • If non-coalition forces seek to board an RMI flagged vessel navigating these waters, the ship’s Master should, if the safety of the ship and crew would not be compromised, decline permission to board, noting that the vessel is proceeding in accordance with international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, and immediately inform UKMTO and the US Fifth Fleet Battle Watch.
  • If non-coalition forces board an RMI flagged vessel, the vessel should immediately contact UKMTO and the US Fifth Fleet Battle Watch. The crew should not forcibly resist the boarding party. Refraining from forcible resistance does not imply consent or agreement to boarding.
  • Vessels operating in these areas are advised to establish contact with both UKMTO and the NAVCENT NCAGS Watch, and to include both on all update or incident report emails, as detailed above. By including both as addressees on each email, awareness will be enhanced without creating an additional reporting burden.
  • All security incidents and suspicious activities must be reported by RMI-flagged vessels to the RMI Maritime Administrator.

Source: SAFETY4SEA

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Tanker crew captures robber during raid off Indonesia

Seafarers turn the tables on thieves who boarded vessel in the Riau Strait.

Four robbers got more than they bargained for when they boarded a tanker off Indonesia.

Local media said the men got into a fight with crew, who managed to hold one of the thieves until police arrived.

The incident took place on the 1,200-dwt Horizon Maru (built 1992) in the Riau Strait on Tuesday morning.

The Barakata website said the crew reported the boarding to police, who arrived in a patrol boat.

Police commissioner Alex Fauzi Rasad said the tanker was at anchor when crew noticed two robbers on the vessel and two in a boat alongside.

“The suspects had put up a fight which resulted in minor injuries to several [crew of] Horizon Maru,” he added.

The three other men escaped.

Attack hot-spot

Police retrieved a sack containing six exhaust valves and other equipment believed to have been stolen from the tanker.

Horizon Maru is operated by Bahtera Maju Selaras of Jakarta.

The area of the attack between Indonesia and Singapore accounted for the highest number of piracy incidents in Asia last year.

There were 31 reported actual incidents and two attempted incidents involving thieves boarding ships underway in the strait, the Singapore-based Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) said earlier in January.

Between January and August, thieves focused on tugs and barges in the westbound lane of the Traffic Seperation Scheme (TSS). Their focus switched in September to larger commercial vessels in the eastbound lane, with eight bulk carriers, four tankers and a VLCC among their targets.

Source: TradeWinds

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5 crew from “Happy Lady” released

The five Greek crew members that were abducted from the Greek-flagged “Happy Lady” tanker from Limboh port in Cameroon have been released. The attack had taken place in the end of December.

Currently, the released crew are in a hospital in Cameroon, while they are expected to return to Greece soon.

The attack took place on December 31, at Limboh port in Cameroon. The attackers managed to kidnap 8 crewmembers out of which 5 of Greek nationality, two Filipinos and one Ukrainian.

After the attack, one of the kidnapped crew members officially announced to return back in Greece. During the piracy invasion, the 35-year old engineer of the vessel ended up injured by bullet deflection.

For the records, pirates had kidnapped 8 crewmembers out of which 5 of Greek nationality, two Filipinos and one Ukrainian.

The attack concerning Greek-flagged vessels comes some days after pirates, that had abducted four crewmembers from the Greek-flagged “Elka Aristotle”, freed the abducted seafarers consisting of one Greek national, one Georgian and two Philippine nationals.

The Union of Greek shipowners has been firmly condemning piracy and attacks in support of a free and safe shipping industry, highlighting the importance of seafarers’ safe and wellness onboard.

Overall, West Africa, and most importantly Gulf of Guinea, remains a hot spot for piracy attacks; Taking into consideration IMB’s latest report, the Gulf accounts for the 86% of crew taken hostage and nearly 82% of crew kidnappings globally.

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Russia, Japan kick off anti-piracy drills in Arabian Sea

Russian Navy ships and a destroyer of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force started anti-piracy drills in the Arabian Sea, the press office of Russia’s Baltic Fleet reported.

“A group of the Baltic Fleet’s ships comprising the guard ship Yaroslav Mudry, the tanker Yelnya and the sea tug Viktor Konetsky has arrived at the designated area of the Arabian Sea for a joint exercise with the destroyer Harusame of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force,” the press office said in a statement.

The Russian Navy ships and the Japanese destroyer will hold communications and maneuvering drills in one of the areas of the Arabian Sea on January 20-21 and practice inspecting and freeing a vessel notionally seized by pirates and landing on the ships’ decks. The Russian Baltic Fleet and the Japanese navy will hold their drills for the first time, the press office stressed.

The Russian and Japanese chiefs of the drills will hold a planning conference aboard the destroyer Harusame in the area of the naval maneuvers today to discuss details of the episodes and the issues of information exchange and security.

After that, the participating ships will hold joint communications, signal exchange and tactical maneuvering drills, including at night. The active phase of the naval maneuvers will take place on January 21.

The guard ship Yaroslav Mudry, the tanker Yelnya and the sea tug Viktor Konetsky embarked on their long-distance deployment from the Baltic Fleet’s main naval base of Baltiysk in the westernmost Kaliningrad Region on October 1 and set off for the Indian Ocean. In December, the warships took part in the naval phase of the Indra-2019 Russian-Indian drills and in the Maritime Security Belt Russia-China-Iran naval maneuvers.

Source: HELLENIC SHIPPING NEWS

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South Korean anti-piracy unit to operate at Strait of Hormuz

South Korea plans to deploy an anti-piracy unit – now operating off the coast of Africa – to the area around the Strait of Hormuz. This decision comes after the US called for help in guarding oil tankers.

Attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz during 2019, made US urge for allies to join a planned maritime security mission. While now South Korea will deploy its forces to the area, Reuters reports that it will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct.

The US welcomed this decision by South Korea.

The Strait of Hormuz is a crucial passageway into the Gulf, where ships sail through around 900 times a year for South Korea. The latter gets more than 70% of its oil from the Middle East.

However, South Koreans are divided for this decision. According to a survey by pollster Realmeter, 48.4% of South Koreans are opposed to dispatching soldiers to the Strait, while 40.3% support it.

Nevertheless, the move was broadly supported by lawmakers, with some saying however that it could risk Iran ties and the safety of South Koreans in the area. What is more, several progressive activist groups criticized the decision, noting that they will stage a protest in front of the president’s office on January 22.

The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats. It will now continue with its mission, while also cooperating with the coalition.

Except South Korea, another major Asian country has taken a similar decision. Namely, Japan has decided to dispatch a warship and patrol planes to the Arabian Gulf. Defence Minister Taro Kono commented on this decision, noting that 90% of Japan’s oil travels through those waters, which are a lifeline for the Japanese economy.

In May and June 2019, several attacks occurred on international merchant vessels in the region, including the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which the US blamed on Iran. However, Tehran denied the allegations.

What is more, after the death of the Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani by a US drone, the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) officially published an advisory in order to warn the US ships located across the Middle East waterways of the possible Iranian maritime threats.

Source: SAFETY4SEA

 

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Besiktas tanker’s guards fight off pirate attack in Nigeria

Navy personnel exchange fire with skiff 60 miles off Bonny, Turkish owner said.

Armed guards have fought off an attack by pirates on a Turkish tanker off Nigeria.

A spokesman for owner Besiktas Group told TradeWinds that the 20,000-dwt chemical/product vessel Lagertha (built 2009) was approached by a pirate skiff on Wednesday evening 60 miles off Bonny.

“Luckily we had eight armed guards on board from the Nigerian navy in Lagos,” he said.

“They fired on the boat and the pirates tried to shoot back, but then they left.”

He added the crew is safe and the ship undamaged. It is now in port in Lagos, with the situation normal.

Serious threat remains

Piracy reporting body Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) had earlier said that a merchant vessel had been attacked by a small boat with five gunmen on board, south-west of the Okwori terminal.

The vessel had departed the Apapa Bulk Terminal on the evening of 15 January and was destined for Calabar in Nigeria at the time of the incident.

The gunmen came alongside the vessel while it was underway at 12.2 knots, but did not manage to board.

The presence of Nigerian navy personnel shows how seriously the country is taking the threat and how active the pirate groups remain.

On Monday, an MSC boxship master reported an attempt by at least eight pirates to board his vessel off Togo.

The captain issued a distress call while the 3,007-teu MSC Nederland (built 1992) was anchored 3 nautical miles (5.5 km) off the port of Lome.

About eight people in one boat were alongside, throwing ropes and hooks and climbing onboard.

All of the crew members mustered safely in the citadel.

The first attack of 2020 saw four naval officers killed and three crew members abducted after Nigerian pirates raided the 3,500-dwt dredger Ambika (built 1979), 5.5 km from the mouth of the Ramos river in Nigeria.

The three seafarers were later freed by Nigerian forces.

Source: TradeWinds

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Unibros tanker repels pirate boarding attempt off Lagos

Unibros ship reportedly thwarts attack by men on skiff while underway 109 km from Nigeria.

A Greek tanker has thwarted a pirate attack while underway 59 nautical miles (109km) off Nigeria.

The attempted boarding took place south-east of Lagos on Monday night, piracy reporting body Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) said.

A skiff with five or six gunmen on board approached the vessel, and a long ladder with hooks was seen on the boat.

The target was the 40,000-dwt MR tanker Tornado (built 2003), which was underway to Lagos at 11.5 knots at the time.

Its last port of call was Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Its AIS shows it anchored in Lagos on Tuesday morning. It has armed guards on board.

Owner Unibros Shipping of Greece has been contacted for further comment.

Greek boxship escapes

The incident came a day after an AM Nomikos-managed containership repelled another piracy attack in the Gulf of Guinea.

The 2,755-teu Atlantic Discoverer (built 2004) was the subject of an attempted boarding 72 nautical miles south of Cotonou in Benin on Sunday.

AM Nomikos told TradeWinds that the ship was approached by a suspicious skiff off Lagos Sunday at around 2000 GMT.

“Crew activated emergency security procedures. Our vessel was able to gain speed, and the skiff sped away,” the Greek shipmanager said.

“All relevant maritime authorities were immediately alerted. The crew remain safe on board. Ghana Coast Guard are conducting a search of the vessel. We are grateful for their assistance.”

Two gunmen were seen near the bridge and the ship’s alarm was sounded.

It is currently understood that the crew had locked themselves in the citadel.

The incident is one of series of attacks this year, and follows an increase in kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea in the last quarter of 2019.

On Sunday, owner Union Maritime said 19 crew had been released by Nigerian gunmen following their December kidnapping, but one seafarer died shortly after being captured.

They were abducted from the 19,100-dwt chemical tanker Duke (built 2003) on 15 December.

An able seaman became ill in adverse conditions, according to the Indian government.

Source: TradeWinds

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AM Nomikos boxship speeds away from pirate attack off Lagos

Atlantic Discoverer activates emergency procedures to deter yet another kidnapping attempt in Gulf of Guinea.

An AM Nomikos-managed containership has thwarted another piracy attack in the Gulf of Guinea.

The 2,755-teu Atlantic Discoverer (built 2004) was the subject of an attempted boarding 72 nautical miles (133km) south of Cotonou in Benin on Sunday.

AM Nomikos told TradeWinds that the ship was approached by a suspicious skiff off Lagos Sunday at around 2000 GMT.

“Crew activated emergency security procedures. Our vessel was able to gain speed, and the skiff sped away,” the Green shipmanager said.

“All relevant maritime authorities were immediately alerted. The crew remain safe on board. Ghana Coast Guard are conducting a search of the vessel. We are grateful for their assistance.”

Two gunmen seen on bridge

Piracy reporting body Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) had earlier said a merchant vessel had been boarded, with the perpetrators carrying out the attack from a skiff, using a long ladder. Two gunmen were seen near the bridge and the ship’s alarm was sounded.

A skiff was spotted on the starboard side of the vessel with five or six people onboard with a long ladder. As the boxship sped up, the skiff “broke free”, it was reported.

Crew take secure shelter

It is currently understood that the crew had locked themselves in the citadel.

The destination on AIS had been Tin Can Island in Nigeria.

The last port of call was Tema in Ghana, where it has now returned to anchor.

The incident is one of series of attacks this year, and follows an increase in kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea in the last quarter of 2019.

On Sunday, owner Union Maritime said 19 crew had been released by Nigerian gunmen following their December kidnapping, but one seafarer died shortly after being captured.

They were abducted from the 19,100-dwt chemical tanker Duke (built 2003) on 15 December.

An able seaman became ill in adverse conditions, according to the Indian government.

Source: TradeWinds

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Piracy and geopolitical tension heighten security risks for shipmanagers

Charterers and local authorities need to work more with shipowners to protect seafarers and vessels, according to Wallem and Fleet Management

Prominent shipmanagers have highlighted security as one of the top industry challenges this year and are calling on charterers and governments to shoulder more responsibility for vessels trading in high-risk areas.

The past month has seen a string of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, including incidents that led to the death of a ship master and four Nigerian navy personnel, as well as kidnappings of dozens of seafarers.

“The biggest challenge we’ll face this year is security problems,” Fleet Management managing director Kishore Rajvanshy told TradeWinds.

“This is going to be the biggest threat to shipmanagement firms.”

As Nigeria does not allow private armed guards onboard merchant ships, operators have had to turn to the Nigerian Navy or patrol boats with personnel from the navy or private security firms.

Cost for protection

Such precautionary measures are often required when vessels are within 200 nautical miles (370 km) off the coast. The escort can often last for a day and cost between $50,000 and $80,000, based on industry estimates.

“This is the kind of tricky situation that we’re faced with,” Wallem chief executive Frank Coles said. “The cost can be prohibitive.”

With general charter terms often not specifying who would be liable for the additional cost, shipowners occasionally would need to foot the bill.

“We have charterers who refuse to pay… the owners are facing the problem,” Coles said.

Recognising the same issue, Rajvanshy said charterers and shipowners sometimes would need to negotiate over the security cost.

But he added: “Most charterers understand the situation. They are quite sympathetic.”

Both executives reckon better efforts from local authorities are needed to enhance maritime security in the region.

“Local governments are trying to rely on their own navies and restricting the way that other security companies can provide security. This is creating problems in providing better security,” Coles said.

“If they can’t control the situation, [they] should be much more flexible in the security arrangements in the waters.“

Crew safety

Moreover, seafarers may refuse to sail to high-risk areas, depending on collective bargaining agreements under each flag state.

“Once or twice, we have had to change crews,” Rajvanshy said.

Coles pointed out this would lead to extra costs for shipowners.

“We do have situations where some of our crew are expressing reluctance… to relieve the crew would cost around $70,000,” he said. “There’s a significant cost issue here… you have to balance the cost and the risk.”

Fleet Management’s managing director Kishore Rajvanshy. Photo: Max Tingyao Lin

Maritime risks have also been heightened by pirates in South East Asia and the Gulf of Aden, as well as geopolitical tension in the Strait of Hormuz.

Although Iran has promised foreign shipowners that no overseas naval escorts are needed in its waters, Rajvanshy suggested arresting vessels can be a tool for Tehran to threaten the US and its allies without engaging in outright warfare.

The situation would be especially thorny for shipmanagers, as merchant ships, even with private guards, would not be able to resist an arrest by national authorities.

“I don’t know what to do,” Rajvanshy admitted.

Source: TradeWinds

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US issues new security advisory for Gulf of Guinea

The Maritime Administration (MARAD) of the United States Department of Transportation issued one new advisory to commercial shipping, canceling the earlier ones issued in 2019. Namely, the 2020-002-Gulf of Guinea-Piracy/Armed Robbery/Kidnapping for Ransom, cancels the the U.S. Maritime Advisory 2019-010.

This advisory will automatically expire on July 12, 2020.

US MARAD stresses that piracy; armed robbery; kidnapping for ransom continue to serve as a significant threat to U.S. flagged operators with vessels transiting or operating in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).

The US MARAD informs that according to the Office of Naval Intelligence’s “Shipping Threat Reports,” 129 reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea occurred in the GoG region in 2019.

This is an 11% decrease from 2018, yet kidnappings were at the highest level recorded in the last 11 years. Attacks, kidnappings for ransom (KFR), and boarding to steal valuables from ships and crews are the most common types of incidents, with the majority of incidents taking place off Nigeria.

In fact, there were 33 kidnapping incidents in 2019, two of which involved crew-members being taken from hijacked vessels when pirates disembarked. Three out of the six hijacked vessels in 2019 were petroleum tankers, likely being hijacked for cargo theft, such as refined petroleum products.

MARAD now highlights that U.S. flagged operators with ships operating in or through the GoG Voluntary Reporting Area designated on Maritime Security Chart Q6114 should transit with extreme caution and vigilance.

Almost half of KFR operations in the GoG occur around the Niger Delta and target vessels, such as tankers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, and cargo vessels, with expatriate crew, due to their potentially high ransom value.

Motherships have been used to support KFR operations up to 150 nautical miles offshore. Criminals or armed KFR groups have been known to fire upon targeted vessels prior to attempting to board them.

KFR groups generally kidnap two to six high-value crewmembers to include the master, chief engineer, and any Western crewmembers, but there were several incidents over the past couple of years where more than ten crewmembers were kidnapped during a boarding.

Kidnapped crewmembers are normally taken ashore in the Niger Delta region where KFR groups demand ransom payments in exchange for the safe return of the crewmembers.

In 2019, pirates hijacked vessels off Nigeria, Togo, and Equatorial Guinea.

The US MARAD advises that mariners transiting this area should visit the new Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade-Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) website, as well as the NATO Shipping Centre website for additional information on threats and specific recommendations for their vessels.

U.S. flag vessels anchoring, transiting, or operating in this region must comply with their approved Vessel Security Plans, and mariners operating near this area are also advised to consult the Department of State Travel Warnings for this area.

Source: SAFETY4SEA

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