The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has warned foreign vessels to remain vigilant when sailing in the Horn of Africa, despite a lull in piracy incidents in the region. The IMB stated that there had been no piracy incidents reported off the Somali coast between January and March 2016 due to the deployment of warships to prevent such attacks. However, it warned Somali pirates still had the capacity to carry out attacks in the region and that one successful hijacking could see a resurgence of piracy in the Horn of Africa. According to the IMB, Somali pirates were still holding some 29 crewmembers for ransom as of 31 March.
PVI Analysis: The announcement comes after the Indian Navy announced it had foiled a pirate attack 800 nm off Mumbai in the western Arabian Sea, underscoring the continued importance of a military presence in the High Risk Area. Somalia’s onshore insecurity and the ongoing presence of safe havens where pirates can operate mean Somali pirates maintain capabilities and local support to conduct activities in the region. According to Oceans Beyond Piracy, a privately funded NGO based in the US, some 16 vessels were attacked by pirates in 2015, comprising five dhow hijackings, nine suspected incidents, one attempted hijacking and one robbery.
Yemen: Mukalla port resumes operations 27 April
Local media reported that the port of Mukalla in Hadramawt province resumed operations following a successful operation by pro-government forces to retake the city from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Press reports confirmed several vessels, including two tankers, docked at the facility. AQAP was reportedly earning up to USD 2 mn in taxes on fuel and goods imported via Mukalla port.
PVI Analysis: The resumption of port operations comes after Yemeni and coalition forces retook Mukalla from AQAP on 24 April. The risk of reprisal attacks on the port remains a concern as the port is a major loss to AQAP. Mukalla represented a key part of their critical infrastructure and was their main source of income to fund operations.
Indonesia: Jakarta secures release of 10 hostage seamen from ASG 02 May
The 10 Indonesian seamen who were abducted by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on 25 March have returned to Indonesia after Jakarta coordinated with the Philippine authorities to conduct increased military activities against the group in its Sulu stronghold. An Indonesian military official said ASG had released the hostages to increase the militants’ mobility as they were on the run from military forces. No ransom is believed to have been paid. Four other sailors from the same kidnap remain in ASG’s custody, for whom Jakarta has ruled out paying a ransom. The successful release comes after ASG executed a Canadian hostage on 25 April after a ransom deadline passed without payment.
PVI Analysis: ASG typically execute hostages if ransom goes unpaid, leading to fears they will execute the four remaining kidnapped crewmembers. However, ongoing military operations against the group on the island of Sulu have proven successful in forcing militants to release hostages.
Malaysia: Oil tanker reports pirate activity near Sabah field 28 April
Oil tanker MV Armada Tuah has reported pirate activity near the Kikeh oil field about 120 km northwest of Labuan, Sabah, after the vessel was chased by four suspected pirate speedboats at around 1100 hrs local time. The tanker reported the incident and returned to the oil platform after initially planning to sail to Labuan. The Malaysian Coast Guard was deployed to the area to investigate but said no unusual activity was detected.
PVI Analysis: The waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the Celebes and Sulu seas have seen an upsurge in piracy in recent weeks. Four Indonesian tugboats were hijacked and a total of 22 crewmembers were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group between 26 March and 15 April.
Nigeria: Pirates fire on tanker off Bayelsa
A tanker was approached by a speedboat, and attacked by 12 to 15 armed pirates, about 67 nm off the coast of Bayelsa state. The assailants attempted to board the vessel with an aluminium ladder, while firing at the bridge. The tanker raised the alarm and armed security crew on board returned fire, resulting in the pirates aborting the attempt after a short chase. The crew was unharmed and the speedboat was last seen heading north.
Nigeria: Speedboat attempts pirate attack off Bayelsa 28 April
A speedboat approached a tanker 70 nm south west of Bayelsa, attempting a pirate attack. Embarked armed guards fired warning shots, which resulted in the suspicious speedboat aborting the approach. All crew were reported safe.
PVI Analysis: The attempted piracy attacks come amid a spate of kidnap for ransom attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, suggesting that the recent incidents were failed kidnappings. During successful kidnap attempts, hostages are typically kept alive while in captivity in order to solicit ransom payments.
Nigeria: Pirates release six crew members kidnapped off country’s coast 28 April
The Turkish maritime company that owns the Malta-flagged vessel which was attacked by pirates on 11 April off Nigeria’s coast, confirmed that the six crew members kidnapped in the attack have been released. The captain was among those abducted. The company reported that all are in good health, but did not elaborate on the circumstances of their release or whether a ransom was paid. Pirate attacks and armed robberies at sea off Nigeria have increased since the beginning of the year, with 32 incidents reported since January.
PVI Analysis: The majority of reported kidnap for ransom incidents off the coast of Nigeria have resulted in the successful rescue of hostages some weeks after their abduction. Companies whose employees have been abducted typically negotiate with pirates to reduce inflated ransom demands over a period of several weeks before agreeing on the ransom.
Select Maritime News
Bangladesh: River transport workers lift strike action 27 April
River transport workers have lifted a week-long strike after extensive negotiations between the Waterways Workers’ Federation, the Bangladesh Ship Owners Unity Council and Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan. The workers began their strike on 20 April to demand higher wages, which were later granted by the vessel owners. The strike had been lifted for passenger vessels on 22 April, though freighters were affected by the protest until 27 April.
Cambodia: Importers say port fee cuts not enough for competitiveness 3 May
Cuts to container fees at state-owned Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, Phnom Penh Autonomous Port and Kampuchea Shipping Agency have been criticised by importers for having little impact on the country’s trade competitiveness, which suffers from high custom fees, corruption and overall high freight transport costs. CamFFA and CAMTA, the country’s two largest private trucking associations, agreed to cut container fees by 10 percent, but companies such as CTSI Logistics and Meng Hong Leap Logistics said that informal fees by state officials as well as expensive transport costs are the main issues which the government has failed to address.
Colombia: Navy seizes 400 kg of cocaine in Pacific 27 April
The Colombian navy intercepted 400 kg of cocaine being transported on a boat in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the southwestern provinces of Valle del Cauca and Cauca. The Colombian-flagged vessel was crewed by four men, and was intercepted while traveling without its navigation lights. Upon noticing the presence of coast guard units, the crewmembers jumped overboard and were rescued by coast guard personnel before being turned over to the authorities at Buenaventura port.
Cuba: First US cruise ship arrives in Havana 1 May
For the first time in more than 50 years, the US cruise ship The Adonia docked in Havana after sailing from Florida. The trip only went ahead after Cuba overturned a ban on its citizens entering or leaving the island by sea. The ship is operated by US company Carnival, who now has the permission of both the US and Cuban governments to sail ships between Florida and Cuba.
Cuba: Maersk commences direct service from Northern Europe 27 April
Maersk Line completed its first direct service from Northern Europe to Cuba with a 2,556 20-foot equivalent unit which arrived at Cuba’s Port of Mariel. The call is part of Maersk Line’s southbound service from Europe to Panama. Infrastructure developments in recent years have seen Cuba’s containerised market grow 10-15 percent per year and the thaw in diplomatic relations between the US and Havana has increased interest in international trade and investment with Cuba. The arrival came the same day that Havana announced it will lift a ban on Cubans and Cuban-Americans entering and leaving the Caribbean island by commercial vessels.
Egypt: Fire breaks out in East Port Said 3 May
According to civil protection forces, a major fire broke out in the East Port Said side channel after a container vessel crashed into a crane oil tank at quay 7. Five fire trucks worked to extinguish the fire, which lasted for four hours and damaged 20 containers containing cooking oil. There were no immediate reports of casualties, and authorities have now begun an investigation into the incident.
Finland: Port of Turku explores proposals to construct LNG terminal 27 April
The Port of Turku signed a contract with engineering and technology firm Neste Jacobs to explore the possibility of building an LNG terminal in the Pansio Harbour area. Neste Jacobs stated the project was in line with reducing emissions and increasing LNG usage. The announcement comes after Turku port signed a letter of intent with Gasum to build an LNG import terminal in Pansio Harbour in May 2012, where there is room for a storage tank of 30,000 cubic metres.
Guatemala: Prosecutors charge 12 over port corruption scam 28 April
Guatemala’s attorney general charged 12 people, including former president Otto Perez Molina and his vice president Roxana Baldetti, for their involvement in a corruption scheme at the company Terminal de Contenedores Quetzal (TCQ). TCQ, which is owned by APM Terminals and The International Finance Corporation, reportedly awarded Terminales Contenedores de Barcelona (TCB) a contract to build and operate a terminal at Quetzal Port in exchange for millions of dollars in kickbacks. Perez Molina resigned in September 2015 amid widespread calls for his impeachment, driven by allegations of corruption.
India: Krishnapatnam Port improves rail links to Bangalore 26 April
Krishnapatnam Port, owned by Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd, has improved its rail links to Bangalore as state-owned Container Corporation of India has increased rail services between the two cities to twice-weekly operations owing to rising freight demand at the port. The move comes amid Maersk Line’s decision to move its westbound shuttle service from Chennai to Krishnapatnam and Kattupalli due to growing congestion at Chennai.
Libya: Update: UN blacklists tanker carrying ‘illegal’ oil 29 April
The UN Security Council has blacklisted the India-flagged tanker Distya Ameya for carrying oil it deemed to be illicit, prohibiting the ship from entering any ports. The tanker was carrying 650,000 barrels of crude from Libya’s eastern government, reportedly destined for the UAE-based DSA Consultancy FZC, although the new unity government is supposed to control Libya’s oil sales. The move comes after Malta denied the vessel entry to its territorial waters over the illicit cargo.
Malta: Officials refuse entry to tanker allegedly carrying illegal Libyan oil shipment 26 April
Malta denied an Indian-flagged tanker, the Distya Ameya, entry to its territorial waters, claiming it is carrying an illegal shipment of Libyan oil. The Distya Ameya is reportedly loaded with 650,000 barrels of crude oil sold by Libya’s eastern-based government to a buyer based in the UAE, though the recently formed unity government is supposed to control the country’s oil sales. The vessel remained anchored 12 km from Malta’s southeast coast.
Myanmar: IFC gives USD 40 mn to Yangon container port development 26 April
The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) gave Myanmar USD 40 mn to finance the expansion of privately-owned Myanmar Industrial Port in Yangon. The loan is the first phase of a USD 200 mn deal to expand the container port’s capacity from 300,000 to 500,000 containers. IFC has commended the estimated 90 percent increase in the country’s container volumes since 2013 due to increased imports and exports following economic and political reforms in recent years.
Panama: Canal authorities dismiss ITF safety study 28 April
The Panama Canal Authority has declared an International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) study that questioned the safety of the canal’s new locks inadmissible. The ITF study demonstrated that the safety and manoeuvrability of neo-Panamax vessels and two tugboats would be compromised when transiting through the locks. Among the study’s findings were that the locks’ dimensions were too small for safe operation and that there are no refuge areas inside the locks. Unions have also raised concerns over a lack of engagement on training provisions and technical and construction issues.
Philippines: Japanese warship anchors at Subic Bay, near South China Sea 27 April
A Japanese Hyunga-class helicopter carrier has docked at Subic Bay, near the disputed South China Sea, in another symbolic move by Tokyo to show solidarity with the Philippines, which is engaged in a territorial dispute with China over the Spratly Islands. This is the second time in three weeks, and the third time in 2016, that the Japanese have sailed a warship to the Philippines. Tokyo has also established closer ties with Vietnam, another claimant to the disputed waters.
Sweden: Dockworkers strike at Gothenburg APM Terminals 26 April
The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union staged a 24-hour strike at Gothenburg’s APM terminals at 0700 hrs local time over managerial issues. The impact of the strike remains unclear, although the industrial action did not affect other terminals at the Port of Gothenburg.
Taiwan: Taipei summons Tokyo as maritime dispute escalates 29 April
Taiwan summoned Japan’s representative to protest its seizure of one of the island’s fishing boats in an area where Tokyo claims exclusive rights. The 50-tonne Taiwanese boat Tung Sheng Chi 16 was reportedly chased for hours by a Japanese vessel and finally seized on 25 April, some 150 nm from Okinotori-shima. The 10 crew members on the ship were released only after the ship’s owner paid USD 72,503. Okinotori-shima is an uninhabited atoll in the Philippine Sea which is mostly submerged at low tide.
Taiwan: Fishermen protest in Taipei over Japanese vessel seizure 27 April
More than 100 Taiwanese fishermen protested outside the Representative Office of Japan in Taipei after Japanese naval forces seized a Taiwanese fishing boat on 25 April near the Okinotori Islands. The fishing boat was released on 26 April after its owner paid a USD 54,000 fine for trespassing in Japanese waters. The protesters claim Taiwan’s territory was violated by Japan and that its coast guard acted as pirates by extorting a ransom through the seizure. President Ma Ying-jeou has condemned Tokyo for the move and said he will send coast guard vessels to the waters to protect Taiwanese fishing boats.
Tanzania: Dodoma to deploy three ships on disputed Lake Nyasa 29 April
Tanzania will deploy three passenger-cargo ships on Lake Nyasa, also known as Lake Malawi, by the end of August. The ships are meant to transport passengers to and from the neighbouring countries of Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi. This is the last in a series of measures taken by the Tanzanian government to affirm its borders in an ongoing border dispute over the lake. Malawi claims to own the entire lake, while Tanzania maintains it owns half of it. The issue has long hindered the two countries’ bilateral relations, and the deployment of the ships may jeopardise a new round of mediation talks.
Tunisia: Military seizes fishing vessel off Medenine 27 April
The defence ministry said that the military seized an Egyptian fishing vessel and detained 14 men illegally fishing in an area restricted to oil company operations off the coast of Zarzis, Medenine governorate. The vessel was transferred to the port of Sfax and there was no immediate confirmation regarding the whereabouts of the detained fishermen.
Source: Protection Vessels International