Weekly Maritime Security Report – Week 6, 2019

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The Weekly maritime security report for the 6th week of this year has been published by the Protection Vessels International. The report dated 13th February 2019 put forwards the various maritime safety threats and issues faced by the shipping industry this week.

Here’s a closer look into the report.

Robbers attempt to board berthed tanker at Kandla Port

On 3 February, According to late reports, the chief officer onboard a berthed Singapore-flagged product tanker noticed a boat under the forecastle and notified the other deck crew at 2200 hrs local time at Kandla Port. The boat moved away after seeing the alerted crew. A subsequent search of the tanker found that a storeroom had been broken into, but nothing reported stolen. Port authorities were notified of the incident.

PGI Analysis: Robberies are common at Kandla Anchorage, particularly overnight when thieves take advantage of low visibility. Although some robbers are reported to be armed, instances of violence are rare, indicating thieves are predominantly armed for self-protection or intimidation.

Crew raise alarm on a tanker at Belawan port

On 6 February, Duty crew onboard an anchored Singapore-flagged tanker noticed a robber escaping via the hawse pipe during a routine inspection and raised the alarm at 0605 hrs local time at Belawan port. A subsequent search of the vessel found that some properties aboard the ship were missing.

PGI Analysis: Robberies are frequently reported at Indonesian anchorages, particularly overnight when assailants take advantage of low visibility. Robbers are typically opportunistic and non-violent, although there is a precedent for robbers to use force in the region.

Robber boards tanker at Port of Monrovia

On 9 February, A robber carrying a knife boarded a berthed product tanker at Port of Monrovia. Duty crew aboard the vessel spotted the robber who fled upon hearing the alarm. Upon inspecting the tanker, the crew noted that the ship’s stores had been robbed. The incident was reported to the local agent and port control.

PGI Analysis: Robberies at sea or at berthed vessels in Liberia are rarely reported, but when they do occur criminals are likely to be armed and attack overnight to take advantage of low visibility.

Possible kidnap-at-sea reported off the coast of Brass

On 3 February, An unspecified number of pirates boarded a landing craft at 0530 hrs local time some 135 nm southwest of Brass. According to unconfirmed reports, the pirates kidnapped three unidentified crew members. There were no ransom demands made public after the incident and no further details were disclosed.

PGI Analysis: Nigerian waters remain at high risk for criminality. Crew and vessels are vulnerable to opportunist thieves at anchorage and more sophisticated kidnap for ransom attacks, which typically occur 10 -150 nautical miles off Nigeria’s coastline.

Customs seize 1.15 kg of cocaine in Boumerdes

On 7 February, Authorities at Boumerdes port seized 1.15 kg of cocaine concealed in a container of cheese which had been imported from Spain. The discovery was made during a routine inspection. The seizure follows the discovery of 307 kg of cocaine in Skikda on 27 January. Minor seizures are common in Algeria as the country is a major route for trafficking drugs into Europe.

Unionised employees of Hutchison Ports stage a 24-hour strike in Sydney

On 5 February, Unionised employees of stevedoring company Hutchison Ports undertook a 24-hour strike from 0600 hrs local time at Port Botany in Sydney, intensifying an ongoing dispute since mid-January. The industrial action disrupted port operations for the entire day, marking a more disruptive action than work stoppages of 30-minutes in length every two hours at Sydney and Brisbane ports since 17 January. The industrial action comes amid deadlocked negotiations between the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMMEU) and the management of Hutchison Ports over the terms of a new wage agreement. More disruptive actions could take place in the coming weeks if negotiations that are set to resume on 7 February fail to resolve the dispute.

Pirates release Russian sailors

On 6 February, Pirates released six Russian sailors who had been abducted off Cotonou on 2 January, Russian media cited diplomats as saying. The released sailors were reported to be in good health. No further details were provided about the circumstances of the release.

Authorities arrest port workers for drug trafficking at Santos port

On 6 February, Federal police arrested two stevedores trying to board 17 kg of cocaine onto a cargo ship docked at Santos port. The arrests were made after authorities spotted a black bag being lifted aboard the cargo vessel with ropes from a small boat. The narcotics were bound for Las Palmas port in Spain.

US destroyers sail near disputed South China Sea

On 11 February, Two US destroyers sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, Reuters quoted a US official as saying. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two guided-missile destroyers travelled within 12 nm of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate. China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which some USD 3 ton of ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Authorities seize spirits, cigarettes from the boat off Guajira

On 11 February, Customs officials seized 3,500 bottles of spirits and 800,000 packs of cigarettes from a fishing boat off the coast of Guajira department. Authorities seized the contraband goods after a surveillance drone operation against the boat, which reportedly conducted suspicious activities in Colombian waters, local officials said. The goods originated from Aruba and were meant to be sold on the black market, police said. Four people were arrested at the scene.

Authorities seize 40 kg of narcotics at Quetzal port

On 6 February, Authorities seized 40 kg of an unspecified type of narcotics hidden inside a cargo shipment of bananas at Quetzal port. Authorities found the narcotics during an operation at a warehouse on deck four of the port. Authorities did not specify the origins or intended destination of the narcotics.

Authorities seize contraband cigarettes at JNPT in Mumbai

On 7 February, The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence acted on a tipoff and seized foreign cigarettes worth USD 2.4 mn from a 40-container from Dubai at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai. The contraband, concealed in around 650 cartons, was declared as wash basins, local media reported. Four people were reportedly arrested in connection with the seizure. Officials have previously seized cigarettes originating from foreign countries such as Indonesia in containers arriving from Dubai at ports in India. Terrorist groups are known to use the smuggling of cigarettes as a means of funding their activities, though there was no indication of a connection between the seizure and terrorism.

Customs seize illegal medicines in Umm al-Qasr

On 11 February, Customs seized a shipment of illegal medicines destined for export in the southern port of Umm al-Qasr, local media reported. The shipment contained an unspecified amount of medicines hidden among foodstuffs. The medicines were not declared to customs and did not have the necessary approvals showing they had undergone testing, as required by law.

Customs seize Turkish military vehicles at Khoms port

On 6 February, Customs authorities at Khoms port, located 120 km east of Tripoli, seized nine military spec 4×4 vehicles which had been shipped from Turkey. The vehicles were discovered inside five shipping containers on the storage area of the port. The seizure comes less than three weeks after authorities seized 20,000 Turkish firearms at Misrata port. Libyan authorities have repeatedly accused Ankara of fuelling the Libyan conflict by providing weapons and other support to a variety of armed factions. Relations between Libya and Turkey have been further strained in recent weeks over the exclusion of Turkey from talks between Libya, Egypt, Italy and Greece over migrants and maritime security in the Mediterranean Sea.

Customs seize USD 147,500 of currency at Tanger Med port

On 5 February, Customs authorities at Tanger Med port in northern Morocco seized USD 147,500 of Euro banknotes concealed in the luggage and side panels of a vehicle, which had arrived via ferry from Italy. The driver of the vehicle, a Moroccan national, was arrested following the discovery. The seizure comes 24 hours after authorities at the same port seized USD 41,000 of Euro banknotes from a Moroccan national due to travel to Italy. Morocco forbids both its citizens and foreign nationals from exporting or importing foreign currency without prior written permission from the Customs and Exchange Office.

Authorities arrest former ports minister on corruption charges

On 8 February, Former federal ports and shipping minister Kamran Michael was arrested by the Karachi wing of a national anti-corruption body on charges of receiving USD 7.1 mn in bribes. The former minister was accused of illegally allocating commercial and residential plots in a housing society in exchange for money.

Malaysian government vessel, Greek carrier collide off Tuas

On 9 February, A Malaysian government vessel, Polaris, and a Greece-registered bulk carrier collided in Singapore territorial waters off Tuas. The Greek vessel was on its way from Singapore to its next port of call at Tanjung Pelapas, Johor, when the collision took place. There were no reports of an oil leak due to the collision. Singapore’s maritime authorities called for the withdrawal of Malaysian vessels from the area following the incident, saying the presence of unauthorised vessels “poses a threat to the safety of navigation in the area”. Polaris was one of the vessels that trespassed into Singapore’s waters off Tuas in October 2018.

Vessel rescues Chinese tourists after boat sinks off the coast of Koh Samet

On 7 February, A private vessel rescued 23 Chinese tourists after a speedboat they were travelling in hit a reef and began to sink off the coast of Koh Samet. Two of the passengers reportedly sustained minor injuries and were treated at a hospital. Authorities subsequently opened an investigation into the boat’s owner and its operator. It is unclear if any charges were brought against them.

Customs seize cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine at Tunis port

On 10 February, Customs officers seized nearly 2,500 ecstasy pills, 9 kg of cannabis and 470 grams of cocaine at Tunis’s La Goulette port. An unspecified number of suspects were arrested in the operation. No further details were disclosed about the circumstances of the seizure or the origin of the shipment.

Police seize USD 500,000 of cannabis in Bizerte

On 6 February, Elements of the Tunisian National Guard seized 30 kg of cannabis resin with a street value of USD 500,000 in the Sidi Machreg area of the northern town of Bizerte. The contraband was reportedly discovered by a maritime detachment of the National Guard close to a beach and was likely destined for Europe, according to a police spokesman. Authorities in Tunisia regularly seize large quantities of cannabis resin, which is produced across North Africa before being smuggled across the Mediterranean.

Customs seize 500,000 packs of contraband cigarettes at Izmir port

On 12 February, Turkish border authorities confiscated 500,000 packs of contraband cigarettes at Izmir’s Aliaga port. A trade ministry spokesperson said the operation was prompted by a tip-off. The estimated value of the contraband goods was around USD 1 mn, local sources said. Ports in Turkey lie along major trafficking routes into Europe.

Canberra, Washington make record crystal meth seizure

On 8 February, Australian police arrested six people in Victoria and New South Wales after the largest seizure of crystal methamphetamine in US history. Authorities said that 1,728 kg of narcotics – the largest ever intercepted drug shipment to Australia – was found in January at a port in California. The haul had an estimated street value of USD 910 mn. Three of those arrested are believed to have been involved with a US-based crime syndicate that tried to smuggle the drugs in containers marked as carrying audio equipment. The arrests are part of an ongoing joint investigation by local and national agencies in the US and Australia to tackle the growing use of crystal methamphetamine.

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Source: Protection Vessels International

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