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Private Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report

by August 31, 2016 General

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West Africa

Benin: Suspicious vessel follows bulk carrier off Benin 24 August
A bulk carrier reported being followed by a suspicious craft off the coast of Benin. The small craft was sighted at 1050 hrs local time around 51 nm south of Cotonou, and followed the carrier at a distance of 2 nm for around 25 minutes before moving away.

PVI Analysis: Benin’s proximity to Nigeria, the epicentre of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, leaves it vulnerable to pirate attacks. The majority of pirates appear to emanate from Nigeria as most attacks in West Africa take place off the Nigerian coast, although incidents in waters off surrounding countries are thought to be significantly underreported. The motive of those in the small craft remains unknown, although it is possible that potential hijackers or robbers were scoping the vessel for a possible attack.

Congo: Two assailants attempt to rob tanker at Pointe Noire 22 August
At around 0200 hrs local time, two robbers boarded an anchored tanker at Pointe Noire anchorage. The crew spotted the robbers and raised the alarm, prompting them to flee empty handed.

PVI Analysis: Pointe Noire regularly experiences vessel robberies, though most incidents are related to petty theft and are non-violent in nature. Vessels are advised to remain vigilant when in the anchorage area to guard against robberies.

Guinea: Pirates attack bulk carrier near Conakry 24 August
Seven robbers armed with automatic guns and knives boarded a bulk carrier at 0110 hrs local time some 5.5 nm south of Conakry. Crew members on watch were taken hostage and beaten, and the robbers took ship’s properties and the crew’s personal belongings prior to departing at 0145 hrs local time. No further details were immediately available.

PVI Analysis: Armed robberies off the coast of Guinea have increased notably since April 2016, with such incidents rarely being reported before this period, thus seemingly indicating the emergence of new pirate groups operating in Guinean waters. A total of five similar incidents have been reported off Guinea since 1 April 2016, according to the PGI Risk Portal, although the actual figure is thought to be higher as other incidents are likely to have gone unreported.

Select Maritime News

Angola: Thousands of Lobito port workers strike over pay 24 August
More than 2,000 employees at the state-run Lobito port commenced an indefinite strike, saying they are owed four months of wages. The strike caused significant delays to operations at Angola’s second-largest port. Angola’s economy has been hit by persistently low oil prices, the country’s main source of revenue, which have limited financing for state-run services.

Australia: Labour commission blocks port operator changing role of dockers 24 August
The Fair Work Commission issued a temporary order preventing port operator DP World from ordering wharf workers to do the work of linesmen at Melbourne port. The Maritime Union of Australia said linesmen perform separate and more dangerous work to wharf workers, and said it would destroy many jobs for linesmen should DP World order them to absorb the additional duties. Maritime unions are highly active in Melbourne and have often clashed with port management over working terms and conditions.

Chile: Fishing groups to discuss protest action 29 August
Fishing groups will meet in Valparaiso on 31 August to discuss new fishing legislation and potential protest action, including a future march in the capital Santiago. Representatives of various fishing unions will attend the meeting and all have expressed some opposition to the Fishing Law, which they claim is damaging to small-scale fishing. Any strike or protest activity could see disruption at Chile’s ports.

Indonesia: Navy finds missing tanker was taken by own crew off Kalimantan 25 August
The Indonesian Navy found the Malaysia-flagged oil tanker MT Vier Harmoni which went missing on 16 August off Batam. The tanker was found off West Kalimantan and is being escorted by the Navy to Tanjung Pinang on the Riau islands. According to the navy, the tanker was taken by its own crew due to a commercial dispute with the ship’s owner. The ship owner Vierlines Asia Group’s CEO Vier Abdul Jamal said the dispute involved a failure to deliver bonuses to the crew. The crew turned off the tanker’s tracking device, prompting fears at the time of a hijacking by pirates.

India: Navy submarine documents leaked after data breach at French firm 24 August
The Australian newspaper reported that over 22,000 documents outlining the secret capabilities of six Scorpene-class submarines that French firm DCNS designed for the Indian navy had been leaked. The submarines are being built at state-run shipyard at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd in Mumbai as part of a USD 3.5 bn deal signed with France in 2005. According to the newspaper report, the data leak likely occurred in France, with published documents containing highly sensitive details of the submarine including technical manuals and models of the boat’s antennae. The Indian defence ministry said it was investigating the impact of the leak. The development could affect the USD 8.9 bn deal for 36 Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft that New Delhi was expected to buy from Paris.

India: Jawaharlal Nehru Port to undergo expansion 23 Aguust
India’s container port Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust has finalised the terms of external commercial borrowing to expand the port in an effort to handle an increase in shipping traffic. The port signed an agreement with the State Bank of India (SBI) and the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) to borrow USD 400 mn. The money will be used to double existing capacity at the port to 9.8 mn TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) annually over a period of seven years.

Iran: IRGC vessels approach US warship in Strait of Hormuz 23 August
According to Reuters, an unnamed US defence official said that four Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessels approached the USS Nitze in the Strait of Hormuz. The four vessels approached the US warship within 300 m in the manner of a high speed intercept despite repeated warnings and flares, forcing it to change course. The IRGC occasionally harasses US vessels in the Gulf. In January, the IRGC detained 10 US sailors after their patrol craft accidentally entered Iranian territorial waters.

Israel: Assailants fire on vessel off Gaza coast 24 August
Israeli media said that an Israeli military vessel came under fire off the coast of Gaza during the detention of a Palestinian fishing vessel for leaving the designated fishing area off the Gaza coast. The incident caused no damage, though one Palestinian was wounded. Clashes and unrest between Palestinian fishing vessels and Israeli naval forces off the coast of Gaza are common. Israeli forces frequently detain Palestinian fishermen for operating further than 6 nm off the coast, despite a 20 nm limit set in 1993, amid an ongoing blockade of the territory.

Japan: Tokyo, Canberra to boost security ties amid China disputes 25 August
Japanese and Australian defence authorities have agreed to boost security cooperation to counter China’s maritime activities in disputed waters, including the East China Sea. Increased cooperation will involve joint military drills and joint opposition of actions that escalate tensions, including Chinese maritime incursions and ballistic missile tests by North Korea. The talks also represent an improvement in relations after Japan failed to win a multi-billion-dollar deal to build submarines for the Australian Navy in April.

Kenya: Nairobi, Kampala to carry out joint patrols in disputed island 24 August
Kenya and Uganda have signed a deal for police officers from both countries to patrol the disputed Migingo Island. Up to 12 patrol officers can be deployed at any given time and the team will oversee deployment, joint operations, arms control, communication, crime management and community policing, according to local media reports. Both countries claim the 2,000 square metre island, whose surrounding waters are thought to contain rich fishing resources.

Libya: MSF reports attack on rescue vessel off coast 25 August
Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that unidentified armed men on a speedboat fired on and boarded a MSF rescue vessel, the Bourbon Argos, 24 nm off the coast of Libya, after 0930 hrs local time on 17 August. The crew retreated into the ship’s safe room before the attackers left around 50 minutes later without stealing anything. The motive of the attack was not immediately clear. The attack was not widely reported on until several days after it occurred. The incident was the first direct attack and boarding of a rescue boat in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the migrant crisis.

North Korea: Submarine conducts ballistic missile test in eastern waters 24 August
A North Korean submarine fired a KN-11 ballistic missile while it was in eastern waters near Sinpo, the latest in a series of provocations by the military since the beginning of 2016. The missile flew 500 km and landed in the Sea of Japan, within Japan’s Air Defence Identification Zone. The launch comes as the US and South Korea prepare to conduct annual military exercises which involve a simulated defence of a North Korean invasion. The launch has been denounced by Japan, South Korea and the US.

Oman: Indian cargo ship sinks off country’s coast 27 August
An Indian cargo ship loaded with vehicles and food supplies heading to Mukalla in southeast Yemen sank off the coast of Oman following a technical fault. Omani fishermen and police reportedly rescued all 11 crew on board. No further details were available, and the exact cause of the incident is yet to be determined.

Panama: Canal authorities open more booking slots for Neopanamax ships 24 August
After completing more than 100 successful transits through the expanded locks, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said that it has started accepting booking requests from Neopanamax passenger vessels for transit dates from 1 April to 26 June 2017. On 14 August, the Neopanamax vessel Hanjin Xiamen became the 100th vessel to transit the new locks. The expansion of the Panama Canal to triple the size of ships that can transit the waterway was inaugurated in June.

Singapore: Minister announces new maritime safety initiatives 30 August
The Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister of Transport Khaw Boon Wan announced a number of new initiatives to make Singapore’s waterways safer for vessels. The measures include a new safety video providing guidance on navigating the Singapore Straits and the Port of Singapore, improving safety equipment on board passenger ferries and increasing regional inspections. The measures come in light of the Sea Prince passenger ferry accident in 2015 which saw 97 people rescued after the vessel hit a floating object after leaving Batam.

South Korea: Seoul, UN to cooperate on port development 24 August
South Korea and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) have agreed to form a partnership that will focus on developing ports in East Asia and across the Pacific region. The partnership is in response to capacity challenges at a number of ports in the region due to a lack of infrastructure, despite rapid economic growth and a growing volume of cargo.

Sri Lanka: Government looking for partner to develop terminal at Colombo port 26 August
Sri Lanka’s Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said that the government was looking for a foreign investor from the Indian subcontinent to develop the partly constructed East Container Terminal at Colombo port. The government is seeking an investment of about USD 400 mn from a partner in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as 75 percent of container traffic through Colombo is trans-shipment cargo from the Indian subcontinent, the minister said.

Sri Lanka: Navy arrests 26 people for illegal fishing 23 August
The Sri Lanka Navy arrested 26 local fishermen in three separate incidents on charges of illegal fishing practices and sea cucumber harvesting, according to local media reports. Navy personnel also seized several fibre glass dinghies, fishing nets, diving fins, and diving masks. The illegal activities reportedly occurred in Nilaweli sea in the east, in the seas off Kalmunai Point and Mandativu Island in the north, and in waters off Chalai also in the north.
Source: Protection Vessels International