Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report

A cable laying vessel reported that 16 heavily armed pirates on board two skiffs opened fire on their vessel west of Jazirat al Hanish al Kabir island in the Red Sea. The assailants were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK47 assault rifles when they targeted the cable ship, which was travelling at 0.5 knots. The embarked armed security team fired warning shots at the gunmen before the skiffs moved away. The merchant vessel reported that it was safe.

PVI Analysis: The incident underscores the continued threat of attacks targeting merchant vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. There have been several reports of suspicious activity in the region in 2016, including sightings of ladders and weapons on board vessels that indicate the continued presence of violent criminal groups in the High Risk Area. Reported incidents of piracy since early 2014 have clustered around the Gulf of Aden and Southern Red Sea, suggesting that the threat originates in Yemen, although the identity of the attackers remains unclear.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Robbers steal ship's stores at Samarinda Anchorage 24 July

Three robbers in a wooden boat boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Samarinda Anchorage at 2200 hrs local time. Crew raised the alarm upon sighting the thieves, prompting them to flee with stolen goods. The incident was reported to port control and port police subsequently arrived at the scene to investigate the matter.

PVI Analysis: Petty thefts are regularly reported at Samarinda Anchorage, many of which are carried out after dark when thieves are less likely to be sighted. Incidents of petty theft at ports are rarely violent in nature due to the proximity of security forces, although thefts from vessels further out at sea have been increasingly violent in recent months.

Malaysia: Authorities confirm five missing seamen were kidnapped by ASG off Sabah 20 July

Presidential adviser Jesus Dureza confirmed that five Malaysian tugboat crewmembers who went missing on 18 July were kidnapped by Philippine Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) pirates off the coast of Lahad Datu in Sabah. The confirmation comes after authorities found an empty tugboat with the engine still running, which represents the latest in a spate of kidnappings by ASG in the Celebes and Sulu Sea since mid-March. No ransom demand has yet been made.

PVI Analysis: Tens of Indonesian and Malaysian seamen have been abducted by ASG from slow-moving tugboats since mid-March, as the militant group looks to raise funds from ransoms to finance its ongoing resistance to military operations in the Philippines' Basilian and Jolo islands.

Malaysia: Maritime curfew in Sabah extended to 7 August 22 July

The dawn-to-dusk maritime curfew in the Sabah waters off Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran has been extended to 7 August due to the rise in nearby abductions by Philippines Islamist militants since mid-March. The curfew from 1900 to 0500 hrs local time was imposed in July 2015 amid a growing threat of intrusions by the militant group in Sabah following the kidnapping of foreign nationals from restaurants.

PVI Analysis: According to Malaysian authorities, many of the tugboats which have been hijacked since mid-March were violating maritime guidelines and restrictions imposed with the aim of mitigating ASG abductions. The kidnappings have damaged Indonesian coal exports to the Philippines as some ports have imposed a ban on exports transiting the Sulu and Celebes seas where the attacks have taken place.

Philippines: Navy captures three suspected Abu Sayyaf vessels off Tawi-Tawi 22 July

Philippine naval forces seized three speedboats believed to belong to Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and also arrested three suspected militants off Sitangkai Town on Panguan island in the Tawi-Tawi island province near Malaysia's Sabah. The arrests took place at around 1000 hrs local time as part of an amphibious military operation led by Colonel Fernando Gomez. ASG has carried out numerous hijackings of slow-moving tugboats in which they abducted tens of seamen in the Sulu and Celebes seas near Tawi-Tawi since mid-March.

PVI Analysis: The operation comes as part of an ongoing offensive against ASG by Manila, although newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte has not ruled out negotiating with the group. So far, the offensive has not significantly affected the group's capabilities to conduct kidnap for ransom attacks at sea. The attack comes as Indonesia prepares to deploy troops to the Philippines to rescue 10 Indonesian hostages previously captured at sea by ASG.

West Africa

Nigeria: Pirates attack vessel off Bayels 7 July

According to a late report, pirates attacked the offshore supply vessel Prince Joseph at around 1400 hrs local time some 80 nm off Bayelsa state coast. The attack was repelled by the Nigerian patrol ship Mediator but the vessel's master and chief engineer were reportedly kidnapped.

PVI Analysis: The late report demonstrates the continued threat to vessels off Nigeria from criminal gangs seeking to perpetrate kidnap for ransom attacks. There has been a significant uptick in such attacks in the Gulf of Guinea since January 2016, largely due to onshore instability in the Niger Delta and cuts to amnesty payments to former militants.

Select Maritime News

Chile: Santiago says visit by Bolivian minister intended to poison relations 19 July

Chile's representative before the International Court of Justice, Jose Miguel Insulza, said that the visit of Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca to northern Chile was intended to "poison" relations between the neighbouring countries. Insulza accused the minister of visiting the most complicated and important location of the bilateral relationship. La Paz said the aim of Choquehuanca's visit to the Arica and Antofagasta ports, which has been widely criticised in Chile, is to verify the complaints of alleged abuses against Bolivian truckers and potential violations of the bilateral 1904 Peace and Friendship Treaty. Further fuelling bilateral tensions, on the same day the Chilean Chancellor announced that Bolivian authorities and diplomats would require visas for future visits to Chile.

China: US Navy vows more South China Sea patrols after ruling from The Hague 21 July

US Navy Chief of Operations Admiral John Richardson has vowed to continue freedom-of-navigation patrols in the South China Sea following the ruling by The Hague against Beijing's claims to the sea. The admiral said the US Navy will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows, amid high tensions over China's rejection of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and apparent disregard for the international legal system regarding its maritime operations. In response, Chinese naval commander Wu Shengli has told Richardson that China will continue construction operations in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Colombia: Dutch firm to conduct feasibility study on Barranquilla port 22 July

The Netherlands-based Witteveen Bos engineering and consultancy firm will conduct a feasibility study of Royal Port SA's plans to construct a new port at the mouth of the Magdalena river near Barranquilla. The study, expected to be completed in October 2016, will be used to obtain a port concession from the Cormagdalena river management authority. The new port will service both river-going and seaborne traffic and cover a total area of 134 hectares.

Indonesia: Jakarta seeks international partners for Natuna fisheries 21 July

Senior presidential advisor Luhut Pandjaitan has said the Indonesian government is seeking international investors or partners to develop joint ventures for fisheries in the Natuna and Riau islands as authorities look to shift 4,000-6,000 fishing boats away from Java due to depleted fish stocks. The government aims to produce 1 mn tonnes of fish annually from the Natuna area. The Natuna and Riau islands have been the site of clashes since May between Chinese and Indonesian vessels, as Chinese naval ships move to stake their claims further south in the South China Sea. Jakarta has called for an acceleration of the development of the islands to assert its jurisdiction.

Libya: Hariga oil port reopens after wage agreement reached 20 July

The oil terminal at Hariga reopened after agreement was reached with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) to pay them two years' worth of unpaid wages. The guards had halted operations at the terminal on 17 July, resulting in the stoppage of production at the Sarir oil field. However, officials with the AGOCO state oil firm said production at the field would remain offline until the firm received money for equipment and to clear debts.

Libya: Three die in Tripoli port fire 21 July

The Egyptian state run MENA news agency said that a fishing loader at the Zawara Port in Tripoli caught alight during maintenance work, killing three Egyptian nationals. There was no further indication of impact to port operations. Egyptians often travel to Libya for work though following the uprising against Gaddafi in 2011, the number of Egyptians working in Libya has significantly declined.

Malaysia: Boat carrying illegal immigrants capsizes off Johor 23 July

At least 12 people were confirmed dead and more than 14 reported missing when a boat carrying illegal Indonesian immigrants capsized at 2145 hrs local time off the cost of Johor as it was sailing from Batam. According to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, there were 60 people on the boat when it was hit by a large wave, causing it to overturn. Some 34 victims of the accident were detained by Malaysian authorities and held in Johor after attempting to illegally immigrate to the country. The migrants reportedly paid about USD 150 each to traffickers who sent them on the boat.

Panama: Container ship suffers damage while transiting expanded Panama Canal 21 July

The Xin Fei Zhou container ship owned by China's Cosco Shipping suffered damage to its hull after bumping into the wall of one of the new locks at the expanded Panama Canal. The ship reportedly scraped its side during a transit of the Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side during a northbound transit of the canal. A 2016 independent study commissioned by the International Transport Workers' Federation concluded that the safety of manoeuvrability within the new locks is compromised as the dimensions of the new lock chambers are too small for the configuration of the tugboats under various environmental conditions. The Panama Canal Authority said it is investigating the accident and noted it is the first such incident since the canal expansion was inaugurated in June.

For an analysis of the safety concerns related to the expansion of the canal, see PGI's Insight.

Peru: Robbers board carrier at Callao 20 July

Robbers boarded an anchored bulk carrier at 0045 hrs local time in Callao Anchorage. An ordinary seaman noticed the robbers at the forecastle and immediately informed the officer on watch. Upon the alarm being raised and the crew mustering, the robbers escaped without stealing anything.

Peru: Attempted robbery at Talara port 20 July

During routine security rounds on board an anchored Liberia-flagged tanker at Talara port, the duty crew spotted a small motorboat near the starboard anchor with one robber in the boat and another climbing up the anchor chain at 0430 hrs local time. The crew member immediately informed the officer on watch who raised the alarm and directed a search light at the robbers, prompting them to flee in their boat.

Philippines: Manila rejects conditional offer of talks from Beijing over maritime dispute 19 July

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay has rejected a proposal from his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to engage in bilateral talks over the jurisdictional dispute in the South China Sea on the condition that the ruling by The Hague on 12 July is not discussed or considered. Yasay has said China wanted to engage in the talks in disregard of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which Beijing refuses to recognise after it ruled that China's claims to the South China Sea are ill-founded. Yasay has said his first priority is to negotiate the rights of Filipino fishermen to fish in the Scarborough Shoal area where Chinese naval vessels have been clashing with fishing trawlers.

South Africa: Government seeks proposals for new fuel terminal amid import growth 21 July

The government has issued a public request for proposals to design, finance, construct and operate a new bulk petroleum terminal at the country's biggest port in Durban, amid an expected growth in fuel imports due to a shortage of domestic refining capacity. According to the statement by the state-owned rail and ports operator Transnet, bidding companies must be at least 51 percent owned by black citizens to qualify for the 25-year concession for the terminal, and bids need to be submitted by 27 January. Transnet expects Durban's fuel imports to grow to 34.5 bn litres in 2044 from 5.2 bn in 2016.

Sri Lanka: Authorities seize largest ever haul of cocaine in Colombo 21 July

Sri Lanka Police have seized 274 kg of cocaine - the largest ever haul in the country - at a private container yard in Colombo's Peliyagoda suburb. The cocaine was reportedly concealed in two containers of sugar. The drugs are estimated to be worth more than USD 27 mn. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the containers were shipped from Brazil, according to police officials. Sri Lanka is a transit country for the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the Middle East and beyond.

Taiwan: Lawmakers, fishermen protest at disputed Taiping island in Spratlys 20 July

Eight lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition Kuomintang flew in a military plane to the Taiwan-controlled Taiping island in the disputed Spratly chain to protest against The Hague's 12 July ruling on China's South China Sea claims. Tens of fishermen also sailed to the island in five trawlers to participate. The Hague ruled that Taiping island is legally a "rock", which undermines Taiwan's claims to waters surrounding the island through an exclusive economic zone granted to "islands". Taiwan has also announced that it is not subject to the ruling against China's nine-dash line because it considers itself an independent country, an argument which Beijing has long denied. It remains to be seen how the international community, which supports the court's ruling, will react or enforce the ruling on the defiant China and Taiwan.

Turkey: Interior ministry denies reports of hijacked coastguard vessels in Aegean 20 July

The Interior Ministry denied reports that two coastguard vessels had been hijacked. Earlier reports had claimed that Turkish fighter jets were conducting surveillance flights to search for two missing coastguard vessels that had appeared in Greek waters in the Aegean Sea. The reports come days after a failed military coup launched on 15 July.

United Kingdom: Nuclear submarine collides with merchant vessel off Gibraltar 20 July

The Royal Navy nuclear submarine HMS Ambush collided with a merchant vessel off Gibraltar during a training exercise at around 1330 hrs local time. The submarine sustained minor external damage, and no injuries were reported. The merchant vessel was reportedly not damaged during the collision. The HMS Ambush has returned to dock for further checks.

United Kingdom: Authorities warn disruption at Dover could last weeks 24 July

Police said that although the severe delays reported at the Port of Dover on 22-24 July had eased, further disruption could take place over the coming weeks. The delays saw queues of traffic lasting up to 14 hours, and were reportedly due to extra French security checks being enforced at the port. Travellers have been advised to check with operators before setting off for the port, and to bring extra food and water in case delays occur.

Vietnam: Coast guard repels six Chinese fishing boats off Quang Binh 22 July

Coast guard vessels from Quang Binh province turned away six Chinese fishing boats which had violated Vietnamese waters about 20 nm north of Con Co Island. The Vietnamese naval vessels reportedly chased the Chinese boats before officers boarded them and ordered the crews to sign a report confirming the violation of Vietnamese territorial waters. All of the crewmen failed to produce documentation upon request. The incident occurred close to the Vietnamese shore and east of the Paracel Islands, which have been the main site of clashes between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels since 2012.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News