India: Navy announces foiled pirate attack in High Risk Area 15 April

The Indian Navy announced it had foiled an attempted piracy attack on a merchant vessel 800 nm off Mumbai in the western Arabian Sea, in the High Risk Area. The Navy said a long-range anti-submarine warfare aircraft had deterred a suspicious mother boat and skiffs with warning transmissions, causing the suspicious vessel to move away from the merchant vessel. Piracy incidents targeting commercial vessels in the Indian Ocean have been rarely reported since 2013.

PVI Analysis: It remains unclear as to whether the suspicious vessels intended to attack the merchant vessel or whether it was a case of fishermen warning vessels not to disturb their fishing gear. The lack of detail regarding the type of mothership involved in the incident make it difficult to distinguish between a foiled pirate attack and fishermen. Fishing is prevalent throughout the High Risk Area, and dhows accompanied by skiffs are known to chase fish in the wake of a merchant vessel many nautical miles off the coast.

Yemen: Pro-government forces retake Ash Shihr oil terminal 25 April

Forces loyal to Yemen's recognised government backed by Emirati troops recaptured the Ash Shihr oil terminal from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Around 80 percent of Yemen's oil exports were shipped through the terminal, which lies around 68 km east of Mukalla. The terminal has been shut since AQAP took control over the area more than a year ago, but according to press reports, militants unsuccessfully sought government permission to export the 2 mn barrels of oil in storage at Ash Shihr.

PVI Analysis: The seizure of Yemen's largest oil export terminal is the latest gain made by the Saudi-led coalition as Yemeni government-allied forces continue to retake areas from AQAP along Yemen's Hadhramaut coastal region. The victory comes one day after forces seized AQAP's nearby stronghold of Mukalla, depriving the militants of the quasi-state they were attempting to build in the region.

Yemen: Gunmen fire shots at vessel south of Mukalla 24 April

Gunmen on board a skiff fired shots at a merchant vessel around 7 nm south of Mukalla in eastern Yemen. The security team on the merchant ship fired several warning shots in retaliation. All crew were reported safe and no further details about the incident were provided.

PVI Analysis: The shooting took place on the same day Yemeni and coalition forces retook the port and city of Mukalla from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) following an intensification of operations targeting AQAP militants in the city over recent days. Incidents directly targeting merchant vessels off Yemen have been rare since the Yemeni civil war commenced in March 2015.

Yemen: Local, coalition forces retake Mukalla from AQAP 24 April

Yemeni forces backed by troops from the UAE and Saudi Arabia advanced into the eastern city of Mukalla, retaking the local seaport and airport from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants. Local and coalition forces set up a number of checkpoints around the city, though according to press reports, ground clashes were limited as most militants had already withdrawn from Mukalla to nearby strongholds in Shabwa province. Intense air strikes conducted in advance of the ground operation reportedly killed around 30 militants.

PVI Analysis: The impact of the air strikes on the port infrastructure remains unclear, although a circular update on Yemen's port operations indicated that Mukalla port was "operating" on 25 April. The change in port authorities in the city may lead to regulatory changes and tighter inspections on vessels calling at the port, potentially causing delays. Mukalla was a major source of income and entry point for supplies for AQAP, with the militants making an estimated USD 2 mn per day in customs from the port.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Robber boards vessel in Belawan Anchorage 18 April

Crew members spotted a robber aboard the deck of a vessel anchored in the Belawan Anchorage at around 1945 hrs local time. Upon hearing the alarm, the suspected robber escaped the vessel. The crew conducted searches but did not report if anything was stolen. The incident was reported to port control, which allegedly did not respond to the call.

PVI Analysis: The latest incident comes amid a steady uptick in petty theft cases in southeast Asia in recent weeks, after a lull in reported incidents between January-March. The reason for the recent rise remains unclear. Robberies targeting anchorages and underway vessels were common throughout 2015, although increased maritime surveillance measures introduced in January 2016 may have contributed to the steep drop in incidents in the first three months of this year

West Africa

Nigeria: Pirates attack Spanish vessel off Port Harcourt 20 April

Pirates attacked a Spain-flagged liquefied natural gas tanker around 23 nm south west of Bonny Island as it sailed to Port Harcourt at 0351 hrs local time. The vessel escaped boarding by employing anti-piracy measures, and all crew members were reported safe. No further details were immediately disclosed.

Nigeria: Pirates attack vessel 39 nm off Brass 20 April

An underway Bahamas-flagged supply vessel was reportedly attacked by pirates at about 0530 hours local time some 39 nm south-southwest off Brass. The alarm was raised by the crew, and the Nigerian Navy boarded the ship to conduct searches. Further details were not disclosed.

Nigeria: Pirates kidnap two crewmembers 81 nm off Bayelsa 19 April

Pirates robbed and kidnapped two crewmembers from an underway Malaysia-flagged anchor handling tug supply vessel, 81 nm southwest of Bayelsa, Niger Delta. Crew raised the alarm when the vessel came under attack and all non-essential crew retreated into the citadel. All other crew were reported safe and proceeded to a port. No further details, including the nationalities of those kidnapped, were disclosed. The incident comes amid an uptick in kidnap for ransoms at sea off the coast of Nigeria since January 2016, driven by unrest in the Niger Delta.

Nigeria: Pirates attack vessel 102 nm off Bayelsa 19 April

A Nigeria-flagged vessel reported that it came under attack by pirates at 0800 hrs local time approximately 102 nm off Bayelsa. The crew went into lockdown before attackers boarded the vessel, preventing any abductions. The assailants subsequently abandoned the attack. Further details of the attack were not disclosed. The incident comes amid a series of attacks and kidnappings off Nigeria that began in January 2016.

Nigeria: Armed pirates approach merchant vessel off Bayelsa 19 April

A small speedboat with seven pirates aboard, armed with automatic guns, approached a merchant vessel at 1915 hrs local time some 43 nm off Bayelsa. The merchant vessel was on route from Calabar, Nigeria to Lome, Togo. The vessel was in ballast condition with a high freeboard and razor blades. The alarm was raised and water hoses activated, and after the vessel's captain ordered evasive manoeuvres, the pirates abandoned the attempt to board the ship.

Nigeria: Pirates attack merchant vessel 31 nm off Bayelsa 18 April

A group of pirates opened fire on a merchant vessel 31 nm off Bayelsa, Niger Delta, at 1615 hrs local time. Embarked armed guards returned fire as the vessel undertook evasive manoeuvres, causing the pirates to abort the attack. No crew were injured during the incident. The intentions of the assailants remain unclear, although the incident comes amid a spate of kidnap for ransom attacks off the Nigerian coast that commenced in January 2016. Reports indicate that organised criminals in the area are increasingly favouring kidnap for ransom over oil theft as a source of revenue.

PVI Analysis: This week has seen some of the highest rates of reported piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea since the increase in kidnappings and attacks that began in January 2016. Most attacks are located off the restive Niger Delta region, indicating that criminal groups in the region are continuing to use kidnap for ransom as a source of income. All types of vessels are vulnerable to attack. The number of reported attacks are likely to be much smaller than the actual figure as piracy in the region is known to be highly underreported. Local sources stated that 2016 has so far been the worst year on record for piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.

Select Maritime News

Bangladesh: River transport workers launch indefinite strike 21 April

The Bangladesh Water Transport Workers Federation (BWTWF) launched an indefinite strike to demand higher wages and better benefits. The strike left several commuters stranded as the operations of motor launches, barges, tankers and lighter vessels were all suspended. Local media reported that the BWTWF's other demands include ensuring security, stopping extortion and robbery on waterways, and maintaining navigability of rivers.

China: Beijing says Brunei, Cambodia and Laos agree sea dispute must not hurt ties 24 April

China has agreed with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos - members of the Association of South East Asian National (ASEAN) - that territorial disputes related to the South China Sea should not hurt ties between Beijing and the 10-member ASEAN. States such as Vietnam and the Philippines, who are also members of ASEAN, claim parts of the South China Sea, while Beijing claims nearly all of the waters. China has sought to keep the issue off ASEAN's agenda, which has in the past seen tensions between member states due to the lack of consensus on dealing with the question.

China: Beijing allegedly preparing to build nuclear plants on disputed islands 22 April

China is preparing to build maritime nuclear power platforms on disputed islands in the South China Sea, according to an article by the state-run newspaper People's Daily. According to the article, nuclear power platforms could sail to remote areas of the disputed waters to support offshore oil and gas projects. A demonstration nuclear platform will be ready in 2018, according to China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, who is charged with designing and constructing the platforms. China has antagonised regional neighbours Vietnam and the Philippines with its aggressive policies of island building and naval engagement in recent years, as part of its claims to the entire South China Sea, which encompasses the Spratly and Paracel islands.

Colombia: Operations with Washington seize 1.85 tonnes of cocaine 24 April

Authorities reported that Colombian and US anti-drug forces seized 1.85 tonnes of cocaine in two operations conducted in Guatemalan and Salvadoran waters. In the first operation, a fastboat carrying 1.01 tonnes of cocaine was intercepted in Guatemalan waters and the three Ecuadorians on board the boat were arrested. The second operation saw the seizure of 840 kg of cocaine from a boat 406 nm off El Salvador's coast, and led to the arrest of two Colombians and one Ecuadorian.

Cuba: Havana to lift cruise ship ban for citizens 22 April

The Cuban government announced it will lift a ban on Cubans and Cuban-Americans entering and leaving the Caribbean island by commercial vessels. The move opens the way for cruise operator Carnival Corporation to set sail for the country on 1 May. The cruise will be the first from the US to Cuba since the 1959 revolution. Havana also said it was reviewing a ban on citizens boarding recreational vessels such as fishing boats and yachts.

India: Oxygen cylinder explosion injures three on naval ship 20 April

At least three people were injured when an oxygen cylinder exploded on board INS Nireekshak, a diving support vessel. The incident reportedly occurred on 16 April but the navy only confirmed the news on 20 April. One of the injured lost his leg. A naval officer said that the explosion occurred while a diving bailout bottle, a small 12-inch oxygen bottle which is carried by divers in their diving helmet, was being charged. At the time of the incident, the ship was 40 nautical miles off the coast of Vizhinjam, a seaport near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. According to local media, INS Nireekshak was initially built for oil exploration but now functions as a submarine rescue vessel.

Indonesia: Jakarta to establish crisis centre after seamen kidnappings 25 April

President Joko Widodo said Indonesia will establish a crisis centre to handle maritime security situations after a series of kidnappings of Indonesian sailors by the Philippine Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in recent weeks. The centre will be managed by senior ministers and military chiefs to quickly respond to security situations. Some 18 Indonesian and Malaysian seamen have been abducted in four vessel hijackings by ASG since late March. The militant group has engaged in ransom negotiations with Jakarta over their release and is holding the hostages at its stronghold on Sulu island.

Indonesia: Minister warns piracy could increase if security not tightened 21 April

Indonesia's chief security minister said that the risk of piracy along the border with the Philippines could increase to levels previously seen in Somalia unless security measures are tightened. The statement comes after a series of recent pirate attacks and kidnappings of crew members from vessels passing through Philippine waters. A total of 18 Indonesians and Malaysians have been taken captive in three separate attacks on tugboats in Philippine waters along the route, according to Reuters. The Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf group has demanded USD 1.1 mn to release the Indonesian crew. United Tractors, the company that owns the two Indonesian vessels which were hijacked in March, agreed to pay the ransom on 19 April.

Indonesia: Ship owner agrees to pay ransom for ASG-abducted seamen 19 April

United Tractors, the company that owns the two Indonesian vessels which were hijacked by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in late March, has agreed to pay the ransom demand of USD 1.1 mn for 10 abducted crew members, according to Indonesian officials. The seamen were abducted from the tugboats Brahma 12 and Anand 12 in the Celebes Sea. ASG conducted a second hijacking of two Indonesian vessels on 15 April and kidnapped four seamen, though authorities have said negotiations are more difficult as the kidnapping was conducted by a different wing of ASG.

Kenya: IMO holds maritime security exercise in Mombasa 25 April

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is holding a maritime security exercise with a number of Kenyan agencies as part of the IMO's work to implement the Djibouti Code of Conduct, a regional agreement to tackle piracy. The exercise in Mombasa involves scenarios aimed at improving cross-agency coordination both in routine patrols and during crisis incidents. The workshop is the fifth of its kind to be held in 2016 in the Western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, with the IMO having conducted similar exercises with Djibouti, the Maldives, Mozambique and the Seychelles.

Liberia: Monrovia Freeport to run 24 hours a day 20 April

Management of the National Port Authority (NPA) announced that Freeport in Monrovia will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, starting May 2016, due to new aids to navigation to be installed at the port. The NPA confirmed that the installation of the aids at the port will be carried out by supplier Pharos Marine, in compliance with the International Association of Light House regulations, and is scheduled to be completed by 30 April. The NPA said the new aids will allow for safe 24-hr marine operations and quicker vessel turnaround time, leading to greater port revenues.

Libya: NATO naval mission to begin in three months 25 April

Italian officials said that a NATO naval mission off Libya was due to commence in July after it is formally approved at a summit in Warsaw. The NATO mission is intended to prevent migrants from reaching Europe via coastal Libya, where security is poor and militant groups have established strongholds. Since 2014, more than 350,000 migrants have travelled to Italy by boat from Libya and NATO officials hope the operation will act as a deterrent to human smugglers.

Libya: Islamic State militants clash with guards at Brega port 23 April

Islamic State militants clashed with a Libyan force protecting oil ports near Brega terminal, killing one guard and injuring four others, including a commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, a semi-official armed group backing the new internationally recognised government of Libya. A PFG spokesperson said that fighting, in which many IS fighters were killed and six vehicles were seized, had lasted for several hours. Islamic State in Sirte has launched frequent attacks against oil facilities and ports.

Libya: NOC says eastern government tried to export 650,000 barrels of oil 23 April

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) said that the eastern government had attempted to export 650,000 barrels of oil, but that workers at the Marsa el-Hariga terminal had refused to load the shipment. The eastern government is one of two rival governments in Libya and has in the past tried to export through its own oil company, although its efforts have so far been unsuccessful.

Nigeria: Clearing agent charged with fraud in Lagos 21 April

Authorities charged a clearing agent with illegally obtaining USD 8,900 under the pretence of clearing a container from Apapa Wharf in Lagos. The suspect allegedly failed to carry out the service without refunding the money. The suspect denies the charges. Corruption is prevalent in Nigeria's maritime industry.

Philippines: Washington to give Manila radars, sensors for South China Sea 19 April

The US will transfer some USD 42 mn worth of observation equipment, including sensors, radars and communications technology, to the Philippines. The equipment will help Manila track maritime activity amid increasing tensions in the South China Sea over China's aggressive island-building and naval activities. The US has established closer ties with Manila during the contest for control over the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands, and has conducted a number of fly-overs and naval "freedom of navigation" operations to defy Chinese blockade efforts.

Russia: Moscow warns Washington over naval incident on Baltic Sea 21 April

Russia accused the US of attempting to intimidate Moscow by sailing a US Navy destroyer near Russia's border in the Baltic Sea. Moscow said that future incidents would be met with "all necessary measures", though it did not elaborate on what measures would be taken. US officials said that the destroyer remained in international waters during the incident, which occurred on 11 April. In recent days, the US has accused Russia of harassing one of its vessels and a reconnaissance plane in the Baltics.

Saudi Arabia: Police seize 827,000 Capatagon pills at Duba 19 April

Saudi customs officers recovered 827,000 Captagon pills concealed in imported farm equipment. The narcotic pills were found on board a truck on a ferry that arrived at the northern Red Sea port of Duba.

Turkmenistan: Oil tanker fire kills one on Caspian Sea 23 April

A fire broke out on a Russian oil tanker on the Caspian Sea, killing one person. It was unclear what had caused the blaze on the Palflot 2, which was in Turkmenistan's territorial waters at the time. A total of 10 crew members were evacuated from the tanker.

United Arab Emirates: US, GCC agree to joint patrols to prevent arms smuggling 20 April

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the US announced an agreement to conduct joint maritime patrols to prevent Iran from smuggling arms to Shi'a Houthi rebels in Yemen. Tehran has denied claims it has sought to provide rebels with weapons, but both US and Gulf forces have cited purported Iranian links in recent arms seizures near Yemeni waters.

United Kingdom: IMO approves requirements for reporting fuel consumption 25 April

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) announced it had approved mandatory requirements for ships to record and report fuel consumption. The proposal requires all ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and greater to collect consumption data for each type of fuel that they use. The figures will then be reported to the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee. The measures intend to enhance vessel energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and are likely to come into effect in 2018.

Uruguay: Abengoa to build new port terminal in Montevideo 19 April

Spanish engineering firm Abengoa won a contract to build a new terminal at Capurro port in Montevideo, which will reduce congestion on the piers at the port complex. Abengoa has nine months to develop the project and 30 months to complete the construction of the 1,000 m of piers for industrial fishing boats.

Source: Protection Vessels International