Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Authorities deny hijack of oil tanker after disappearance near Batam 17 August

An Indonesia-flagged oil tanker was believed to have been hijacked after it disappeared on the evening of 16 August off Indonesia's Batam island, lost contact with maritime authorities and disabled its tracking device after it departed from Malaysia's Tanjung Lepepaas port in Johor. However, the Indonesian Navy said MT Vier Harmoni, which was carrying 900,000 litres of diesel, was not hijacked and the confusion was due to an "internal management problem". The tanker is believed to be located near Batam and was reportedly found by the Indonesian forces, though the status of the vessel is unclear. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency claimed that the vessel was purposefully brought to Indonesian waters by the crew due to a payment dispute, though few other details are available.

PVI Analysis: The conflicting reports over the status of the tanker appear to stem from a commercial dispute between the ship's management and crew and a lack of communication as to the vessel's whereabouts. Nevertheless, criminality and piracy remain a major concern for shippers transiting Southeast Asian waters as armed robberies and hijackings of commercial vessels continue to be reported in the region.

Indonesia: Authorities claim to foil smuggling attempt at South Sulawesi port 16 August

Police said they had thwarted two attempts to smuggle crystal methamphetamine via Nusantara Parepare Port in South Sulawesi in August. In two separate raids, authorities confiscated a total of 10 kg of crystal meth, which had been smuggled from Malaysia and was to be distributed in Sulawesi. Three suspects were also arrested in the raids, according to local media reports.

PVI Analysis: Southeast Asian ports are known to be used by organised criminal rings for drug smuggling as the region is a major transit point for narcotics. In February 2016, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia signed the UN's Global Container Control Programme to mitigate drug smuggling by sea, although there are doubts it will have a significant impact on the maritime drug trade in the region as Hong Kong was not a signatory.

West Africa

Nigeria: Pirates kidnap eight fishermen in Akwa Ibom state 21 August

The Local Government chair announced that pirates had kidnapped eight fishermen from the creeks of the Ibeno in Akwa Ibom state. One of the assailants was reportedly apprehended in Eket when collecting a ransom. The local police said they were unaware of the incident.

PVI Analysis: Suspected pirates regularly attack security personnel and abduct locals from creeks in the Niger Delta for ransom. Pirates have also reportedly conducted attacks on land against security forces patrolling oil infrastructure in the region, who are a key target for criminal gangs. The creeks are notoriously difficult to patrol due to the complexity of the waterways in the region, leading criminals operating in the area to routinely take advantage of the weak security environment.

Nigeria: Pirates attack cargo vessel off Bonny island 17 August

Nine pirates boarded UK-flagged general cargo ship Vectis Osprey at 1327 hrs local time, around 30 nm south of Bonny island in Nigeria. The crew reportedly retreated into the citadel and sent a distress call, prompting the Nigerian navy to send a vessel which engaged in a gun fight with the pirates, who managed to escape.

PVI Analysis: Attacks on commercial vessels continue to be reported off the Nigerian coast as assailants have repeatedly targeted crew in kidnap for ransom attacks since January 2016. Reports of such incidents have declined since April, although attacks have still been known to take place. In July, China announced it would provide support in training a regional counter-piracy force in a bid to mitigate attacks in the region, although a timescale and further details of the programme have not been disclosed.

Select Maritime News

Australia: Hong Kong shipping group protests detention of vessel off Gladstone 18 August

The Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) has called on the city authorities to provide assistance to the crew of a Hong Kong-flagged ship currently being detained by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) off the port of Gladstone. According to local Australian media, the Five Stars Fujian, a 180,000-tonne coal carrier, has been stranded on the Great Barrier Reef for about a month, with supplies diminishing and salaries to crewmembers going unpaid. The owner of the ship has not been identified.

Bangladesh: Port workers at all major river ports, one seaport go on strike 23 August

All major river ports and at least one seaport in Bangladesh have been disrupted by a workers' strike to demand a fixed minimum wage for boatmen of USD 127 per month. The Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation told local media that the strike is indefinite and also has been called by the union to demand a fixed rate of compensation for workers hurt in accidents as well as concrete steps to prevent theft and extortion at the ports. Some 17 port-specific unions at river ports have participated as well as the union for Chittagong Port, which has been closed after workers for light ships and passenger ships lent their support to the strike. Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan has assured the minimum wage demand will be implemented.

China: Beijing builds pier for warships near disputed East China Sea islands 19 August

China has built a new pier for warships at a site under development as a military base near disputed islands in the East China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported. The islands are administered by Japan but are also claimed by China. According to unnamed sources cited by the newspaper, the pier was constructed on Nanji Island, and several warships have already been seen docking there, while the 70- to 80-metre long pier can also accommodate landing craft. Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo are on the rise after repeated incursions by Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

China: Navy carries out drills in Sea of Japan 19 August

China's navy carried out exercises in the Sea of Japan in what the state-run People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper described as "routine" and "in accordance with international law and practice." The Sea of Japan is a strategic waterway bordered by Japan, Russia, South and North Korea, and it is unusual for Beijing to conduct these drills alone. In 2015, it carried out joint exercises in the sea with Russia.

China: Beijing, ASEAN agree to negotiate South China Sea framework by 2017 17 August

China and representatives from the 10 Southeast Asian nations which make up ASEAN have agreed to complete a framework on code of conduct in the South China Sea by mid-2017, to reduce tensions which have escalated since 2015. The announcement was made after a meeting in northeastern China where the sides also agreed to establish a China-ASEAN hotline to be used during maritime emergencies. Chinese vessels occupying numerous disputed islands in the Spratly and Paracel Islands routinely engage in violent clashes with Vietnamese and Philippine fishing vessels, and China's rejection of The Hague's ruling against its claims in July has further exacerbated tensions between the neighbours.

Egypt: Cairo tightens wheat import regulations 16 August

According to Bloomberg, Egypt tightened restrictions on the importing of wheat, preventing some grain vessels from unloading until they pass a final inspection on 8 August. Vessels were able to discharge cargo before final approval prior to the decision, which was previously not reported. Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat and the restrictions are likely to increase time at port and thus costs for shippers.

El Salvador: Authorities seize 604 kg of cocaine from speed boat in Gulf of Fonseca 19 August

The Salvadoran navy seized 604 kg of cocaine and arrested one Honduran and one Ecuadorian on a speed boat after a chase on the seas. The seizure took place in Salvadoran waters in the Gulf of Fonseca, which the country shares with Honduras and Nicaragua. Central America is a major route for the transit of drugs from South America to the US and other countries.

Ghana: President says Ivory Coast border dispute has delayed oil development 18 August

Ghanaian President John Mahama has said that an ongoing maritime boundary dispute with neighbouring Ivory Coast has affected the development of a new oil field known as Tweneboa, Enyenra and Ntomme (TEN) in the Deepwater Tano Block. The provisional measures implemented by an international tribunal over the dispute have prohibited the development of new wells in the field. Speaking in Takoradi, Mahama said he is committed to a peaceful resolution to the dispute. The offshore TEN field, which is operated by Tullow Oil, began producing its first oil on 18 August but only 10 of its 24 wells are currently operational.

Greece: Charity warns of surge in migrant arrivals 17 August

Save the Children warned of a surge in arrivals by migrants and refugees to Greek islands, with 1,367 arrivals having been reported so far in August, compared with 1,721 for the whole of May. Most of the arrivals originated from the west coast of Turkey, where efforts to stem the flow have been hindered by conditions in the country since the failed coup in July. More than 10,000 migrants and refugees are currently being held in camps on the islands of Chios, Lesbos and Samos.

Indonesia: Navy seizes Malaysian fishing vessel near Bintan 21 August

The Navy's Western Fleet confiscated a Malaysian-flagged fishing vessel which infringed on national waters and was fishing illegally off Indonesia's Bintan, according to First Admiral S. Irawan. Patrol boats arrested the captain of the ship, three Indonesian crewmembers and nine Singaporean nationals when they were allegedly 12 km off Tanjung Berakit, and they are now being detained at a naval base in Batu Hiram.

India: New Delhi boosts security in northeast, Andaman and Nicobar 17 August

The Indian Air Force will inaugurate its Pasighat advanced landing ground (ALG) in the West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims and refers to as South Tibet, on 19 August. The ALG can reportedly operate aircraft and helicopters. The government has also approved several infrastructure development projects in the eastern Andaman and Nicobar islands, and has begun to regularly deploy its Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, as well as the long-range patrol and anti-submarine warfare Poseidon-8I aircraft. The increased security measures are aimed at addressing the vast disparity in the military capabilities between India and China, with New Delhi claiming that Pasighat is a strategic asset. Both countries share a disputed border of 4,057 km and incursions occur frequently. Increased military presence in Andaman and Nicobar is expected to help counter China's influence in the Indian Ocean region.

India: Trade unions threaten to strike on 2 September over port reforms 17 August

Unionised dockworkers have threatened to stage a nationwide strike on 2 September over government plans to give state-owned ports greater autonomy to conduct modernisation reforms. The government abandoned similar plans in 2015 after port workers held a strike, also on 2 September, which caused significant disruption and delays to ports across the country. The strike comes as the government seeks around USD 60 bn in foreign investment for the Sagar Mala infrastructure development programme, which includes the construction of deep-sea ports and port modernisation.

Japan: Report says Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul to meet soon ahead of trilateral summit 17 August

Japan, China, and South Korea are in talks to hold a meeting of their foreign ministers on 23-24 August in Tokyo, according to The Tokyo Shimbun. The daily newspaper reported that the meeting would lay the groundwork for the trilateral summit that Tokyo will host later in 2016, with North Korea's nuclear and missile programme likely to be high on the agenda. All three countries are yet to officially confirm whether the meeting will take place, amid escalating tensions between China and Japan over Beijing's maritime activities.

Japan: Tokyo protests Chinese vessel incursions in East China Sea 17 August

Japan has issued a formal diplomatic protest against China after Chinese Coast Guard ships were seen entering disputed waters in the East China Sea, near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Tokyo has issued 32 protests since 5 August after 29 alleged incursions by Chinese vessels, an upsurge from earlier in 2016. On 8 August, Japan said it spotted 15 Chinese naval vessels near the islands, the highest ever concentration of Chinese ships in the area. In each incursion in August the Chinese ships left after the deployment of Japanese Coast Guard vessels.

Nicaragua: Refinery fire under control in Puerto Sandino 21 August

Officials reported that firefighters have managed to contain a massive refinery fire at the Puma Energy facility at Sandino port. The blaze first ignited on 17 August after one of four large fuel tanks exploded at the site, with a second tank igniting the following day. Each of the damaged fuel tanks is capable of holding some 144,000 barrels of oil, although Puma Energy ruled out a fuel shortage following the fire.

Nigeria: Navy launches 30 new vessels to counter Delta militancy 18 August

The Nigerian navy has announced it launched 39 vessels into the creeks of the Niger Delta, 30 of which are brand new locally-built Espenal boats. The remaining nine were procured from Sri Lanka. The boats have the ability to navigate the shallow and narrow waterways of the Delta, where militants have long been operating and have intensified attacks on oil and gas assets since mid-February 2016. The navy is planning to construct an additional 50 Espenal ships in the near future.

Philippines: Second Indonesian hostage escapes from Abu Sayyaf kidnappers 19 August

A second Indonesian hostage escaped from kidnappers belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines and was undergoing medical treatment in Zamboanga, Indonesian news agency Antara reported. On 17 August, an Indonesian sailor escaped from his ASG captors in their stronghold of Sulu. Both men along with five other crew members were abducted off a tugboat, Charles 001, in June in the Sulu Sea between Malaysia and the Philippines. ASG has conducted numerous kidnappings since March, prompting Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia to conduct joint sea patrols.

Philippines: Manila receives first coastguard boat from Tokyo 19 August

Japan delivered the first of 10 coastguard vessels to Manila, with Philippine coastguard chief Rear Admiral William Melad stating that the 44-metre vessel would be sent out to sea on patrols and law enforcement operations. While the vessel could be used for maritime security, it was not for combat, Melad said. The news comes after China rejected a July ruling by an international tribunal which dismissed its historical claims to nearly all of the South China Sea. The Philippines, along with Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam, also claims part of the waters.

Puerto Rico: Authorities evacuate hundreds from burning ferry in San Juan 17 August

Hundreds of passengers were evacuated from a ferry that caught fire as it was preparing to dock in San Juan, with no serious injuries reported. The Caribbean Fantasy ferry, operated by American Cruise Ferries, sailed from Santo Domingo on the evening of 16 August and caught fire about 5 km off San Juan. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

Turkey: Collision forces suspension of Bosphorus traffic 17 August

Traffic through the Bosphorus Strait has been suspended following a collision between a coast guard vessel and the bulk carrier MV Tolunay. The collision occurred at 0840 hrs local time in the strait's southern end, and capsized the coast guard vessel, with six people hospitalised. The Bosphorus is an important shipping route, with more than 3 percent of global crude supply transiting the strait each year. It was initially unclear how long the strait was expected to remain closed.

United Kingdom: Border forces seize cocaine worth more than USD 100mn 20 August

A joint UK Border Force and National Crime Agency operation seized cocaine worth more than USD 100mn off the coast of Cornwall, southwest England. More than 50 separate bags of cocaine were seized from a converted fishing trawler near Falmouth and three people on board were arrested.

Source: Protection Vessels International Ltd