Weekly Maritime Security Report


Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report


Somalia: Update: Police say pirates hijack fishing vessel off Eyl

24 March

Local police reported that pirates successfully hijacked a fishing vessel off Eyl, Puntland, and are thought to have headed out to sea to use the vessel as a mothership for further hijackings. The assailants dropped off 10 Yemeni crew members onshore, although the captain, engineer and cook remain on board the vessel. The incident marks the second hijacking in the area in March.

PGI Analysis: Statements by local police indicate a fishing vessel was hijacked off Eyl on 24 March, rather than a merchant vessel as first reported by the UKMTO. The head of the maritime police forces in Puntland said the vessel was hijacked to serve as a launchpad for attacks on larger ships, a claim which has been corroborated by residents from Marrayo, a northern village near the pirate stronghold of Eyl, who confirmed that pirates from their village had gone to hunt potential targets. This follows the hijacking of the Aris 13 bunkering tanker on 13 March as it transited through the Socotra Gap, which resulted in the kidnap and detention of the eight crew members for three days before Puntland security forces and local elders secured their release.

The incidents reinforce concerns over a resurgence of pirate activity in the High Risk Area (HRA). Although the last successful attack against a large commercial vessel off Somalia was reported in 2012, the drivers of the piracy epidemic, including tensions over illegal fishing and difficult economic conditions in Somalia, remain in place. Pirates are also likely to have been emboldened by the drawdown of international naval forces in the region after NATO ended its counter-piracy mission Ocean Shield in the region in December 2016, as well as growing signs that vessels transiting the region are relaxing their onboard security measures. Vessels transiting the HRA are therefore advised to implement BMP4 measures to mitigate the risk of boardings.

Somalia: Update: Hostages report pirates threatened their lives

21 March

A victim of the Aris 13 Hijacking on 13 March reported that pirates ordered him to say his final goodbyes to his family during the shootout with Puntland forces on 16 March. The relatives of other hostages also reported being contacted and asked to urge the government and port authorities to halt the shootout. Puntland forces threatened the pirates with violence should they not release the victims.

Mozambique: Pirates attempt to rob carrier at Beira Port

22 March

During cargo operations, duty crew on routine rounds onboard a bulk carrier noticed two robbers armed with knives on the poop deck at 2315 hrs local time at Berth No 6, Port of Beira. Crew mustered and then proceeded to the poop deck, while informing the Chief Officer via walkie talkie. Upon seeing the crew’s alertness, the robbers jumped overboard and escaped without stealing anything.

PGI Analysis: The piracy attempt highlights persistent concerns over security at Beira port, after reports in January that organised crime rings had been looting fuel and trucks leaving from the port, facilitated by a lack of police presence. The incident also indicates the importance of vigilance by crew at night, when pirates attempt to profit from reduced visibility.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Tanker reports suspicious approach off the coast of Pulau Nipah

26 March

A tanker ship reported a suspicious approach by two speed boats with two to three persons on board at 1254 hrs local time off the coast of Pulau Nipah. The tanker took evasive actions, sounded the ship’s horn and directed signalling lamps towards the approaching speedboats. The two boats abandoned the pursuit at a distance of 15 metres.

PGI Analysis: Recent reports indicate the incidence of piracy in the Malacca Strait has diminished, with the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre reporting only one pirate attack in the first 11 months of 2016. Nonetheless, the latest suspicious approach demonstrates that attempted attacks in the strait continue.

Philippines: Military rescues two crewmen kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

25 March

The Philippine military has rescued two Filipino cargo ship crewmen kidnapped on 23 March from the Sulu Sea by Abu Sayyaf (ASG) militants. The military rescued the ship captain and an engineer from the remote village of Basakan, on Basilan island, the stronghold of ASG. The soldiers also captured a wounded ASG suspect during a pursuit. The militant group kidnapped the two crewmen just hours after soldiers rescued two Malaysians held for about eight months on the island.

Philippines: Militants board cargo vessel off Mindanao, abduct two

23 March

According to the Philippines coast guard, militants on three speed boats boarded a cargo ship heading for General Santos City on Mindanao, abducting the vessel’s captain and chief engineer. Initial reports did not confirm the exact location of the incident. Local officials said that they believed that Abu Sayyaf Group militants were responsible for the attack. The abduction came hours after security forces rescued two Malaysians, abducted eight months ago, from militants in the Sulu archipelago.

Philippines: Security forces rescue Malaysian captives off Sulu

23 March

Security forces raided a militant base in the Sulu peninsula off Pata Island and rescued two Malaysian nationals abducted by Abu Sayyaf Group militants eight months ago. Initial reports did not confirm further details of the operation. Those rescued were among five members of a Malaysian tugboat crew abducted in Sabah state in July 2016.

PGI Analysis: The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has been responsible for a surge in piracy in the Sulu and Celebes seas since March 2016, as kidnap for ransom remains a key source of financing for the militants. Chief of the Armed Forces General Eduardo Año reported that, as of 27 March, the group was holding 27 people hostage. The group commonly executes hostages if ransoms are not paid before a specified deadline.

West Africa

Nigeria: AFRICOM organises anti-piracy exercise in Gulf of Guinea

23 March

The US African Command (AFRICOM) announced that the US Navy would hold an exercise with the Nigerian military and other regional forces to improve anti-piracy and smuggling activities at sea and on land. The exercise, dubbed “Obangame Express 2017” aims at increasing maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

PGI Analysis: The military exercise comes amid an uptick in pirate attacks onmerchant vessels in the region since January 2016. This trend has been attributed to regional militant gangs opting for the kidnap of crew over oil theft as their primary source of revenue.

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Source: Protection Vessels International


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