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PVI: Weekly Maritime Security Report

Philippines: Abu Sayyaf release four Malaysian hostages 8 June

Philippine military officials announced that Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf has released all four Malaysian hostages from captivity in Sulu. The victims were kidnapped from their tugboat on 1 April while en route to Sarawak from the Philippines.

PVI Analysis: Abu Sayyaf had previously demanded a ransom of USD 6 mn for the four hostages, and it remains unclear whether the amount was paid to secure their release. Abu Sayyaf, aligned with Islamic State, are known for kidnapping foreign nationals to solicit large ransoms. The group has however recently come under pressure from a Philippine government offensive in Sulu and Basilan, which has reportedly forced the group to relinquish hostages to evade armed forces.

West Africa

Benin: Vessel chases oil tanker 61 nm off Cotonou 6 June

A mother vessel flanked by two black skiffs chased an oil tanker 61 nm south of Cotonou in the Gulf of Guinea at 1640 hrs local time. The tanker was forced to make evasive manoeuvres at high speed and use its water jet to deter the suspicious vessels, causing the assailants to abort the approach after 20 minutes.

PVI Analysis: The intentions of the perpetrators remain unclear, although the report comes amid a series of kidnappings at sea in the Gulf of Guinea. The fact the perpetrators were reluctant to abort the approach, forcing the oil tanker to make evasive manoeuvres, indicates the assailants had criminal intent. The incident deviates from the typical pattern of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea in recent months, as the majority of attacks have taken place off Nigeria’s restive Niger Delta region.

Select Maritime News

Australia: Maritime regulator to request weight documentation from 1 July 13 June

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has announced it has amended Marine Order 42, relating to cargo, stowage and securing, to require all shippers to provide verified gross mass (VGM) documentation from 1 July. The amendment is to comply with SOLAS regulations that require vessel masters to refuse containers which have not had their masses verified. Some ports, including the UK’s Port of Felixstowe, have announced they will introduce container weighing at ports in order to comply with the new regulations.

Belgium: World’s biggest lock opens at Port of Antwerp 10 June

Kieldrecht lock at the Port of Antwerp, now the world’s biggest lock, has been officially inaugurated. The lock is 500 m long, 68 m wide and 17.8 m deep. The lock is located on the left bank of the Scheldt, connecting the Scheldt and the Waasland canal and all other docks on the left bank encompassing Doel dock, Verrebroek dock, Vrasene dock and the Northern and Southern mooring docks.

Chile: La Paz to file counter-suit over Silala River dispute 7 June

Bolivian President Evo Morales announced he plans to file a counter-suit against Chile at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the alleged theft and illegal use of the Silala River. The announcement comes a day after the Chilean government filed suit at the ICJ to declare the river an international waterway since it flows along the border. La Paz has repeatedly demanded compensation from Santiago for the waterway, which it claims originates in springs from Bolivia’s Potosi, while Chile contends the Silala is an international river.

China: Washington says Beijing made ‘unsafe’ intercept of spy plane 8 June

A Chinese J-10 fighter jet carried out an ‘unsafe’ intercept of a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane on routine patrol in international airspace over the East China Sea, the United States Pacific Command said. It did not specify when the incident occurred or how close the Chinese fighter jet came to the US plane. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that Washington’s frequent reconnaissance over Chinese waters severely undermines China’s maritime and air safety and is a key source of danger. The incident comes amid increasingly aggressive rhetoric from both sides regarding Beijing’s territorial claims in the South and East China Seas.

Ecuador: DP World to build country’s first deepwater port 6 June

Port operator DP World will invest USD 1.2 bn to construct and operate Ecuador’s first deepwater port, the Port of Posorja, for a period of 50 years. The port is projected to move an average of 2.5 mn containers a year. The government negotiated the contract directly with DP World, with critics saying the contract should have been awarded through a public tender.

Greece: Government considers transfer of striking port workers to end stoppage 9 June

Government authorities are considering transferring disaffected workers from the port of Piraeus to other parts of the civil service in a bid to end industrial action at Piraeus before the privatisation of the port is due to be ratified on 10 June. Workers are planning to hold a protest on 10 June outside Athens Stock Exchange, where the meeting to finalise the sale of Piraeus port to COSCO Pacific is due to take place. Workers have staged a series of strikes at Piraeus port over fears of job losses following the privatisation of the port.

Greece: Authorities investigate discovery of opiates bound for Libya 6 June

Greek authorities announced that they were investigating a possible Islamic State link to a vast seizure of synthetic opiates at Piraeus port on 10 May. The 26 mn tablets containing Tramadol, with an estimated value of USD 13 mn, were found in a container from New Delhi that had been bound for Libya. The Libyan company that had been due to receive the shipment has previously been involved in the transfer of shipments to Islamist militants, according to Greek investigators. The seizure took place with the cooperation of the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

India: Navy says hackers attempted to track aircraft carriers 9 June

The Indian navy said hackers had attempted to penetrate its computer network to track and monitor two aircraft carriers, INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya. Some reports indicated that the hackers had managed to track the vessels for a limited period of time and linked the perpetrators to Chinese officials. The reports come after the US Coast Guard and the International Association of Classification Society voiced concerns over the potential for hackers to use maritime tracking data to follow and manipulate shipping movements.

India: New Delhi to fast-track military projects on island territories 7 June

The government is planning to increase its military presence in island territories under its control on both its eastern and western seaboards in the Indian Ocean, and on the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The project aims to increase maritime security by establishing a military presence and a coastal surveillance programme on India’s outlying islands. The move comes amid the ongoing militarisation of the South China Sea by Beijing, which is thought to have prompted New Delhi to take such measures to deter any advancements by Beijing towards its territories.

Indonesia: Fishermen rescue stranded Sri Lankan refugees in Aceh 11 June

Indonesian fishermen in Aceh rescued a boat carrying 40 Sri Lankans found drifting off northern Sumatra in Indonesian waters after experiencing engine trouble. The boat was intending to reach Australia. The Indonesian government dispatched a mechanic to fix the boat’s engine but did not allow it to dock because its passengers were undocumented.

Iran: Tehran suspends LPG exports to Japan 8 June

The head of Iran’s Association of Petrochemical Industry Corporations (APIC) announced that LPG exports from Iran to Japan had stopped without detailing reasons for the suspension. The APIC head indicated that insurance issues and the supply of LPG carriers had previously been an obstacle to exports although the two issues were nearly resolved. Since the majority of international sanctions were lifted in January 2016, shippers have struggled to obtain insurance amid fears that sanctions could be redeployed and over remaining US restrictions that prohibit trade with Tehran involving US financial institutions.

Iran: Tehran to buy USD 2.4 bn worth of ships from South Korea 7 June

State-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Iranian Offshore Oil Company have reportedly reached an agreement with South Korean shipbuilders to purchase 2.4 bn worth of vessels, according to the Wall Street Journal. Korean ship yards are expected to start building the vessels in 2018 and Tehran is reportedly making 20 percent down-payments through oil deals with Seoul. The deal comes after senior Korean and Chinese officials visited Iran in recent months, as Iran looks to modernise its fleet with the majority of international sanctions against Tehran having been lifted in January 2016.

Italy: Coast guard rescues more than 1,300 migrants at sea 11 June

Italy’s coast guard said it had picked up 1,348 migrants at sea in 11 rescue operations between Sicily and North Africa. The number brings the total number of those saved over the past three days to more than 3,000. According to the Interior Ministry, almost 50,000 migrants have come ashore in the country this year, about 10 percent less than the same period last year.

Japan: Tokyo summons Chinese ambassador over island dispute 9 June

Tokyo summoned its Chinese ambassador to Japan at 0200 hrs local time to express concern after a Chinese frigate sailed within 38 km of Japanese-controlled contested islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. This is the first time that warships have been dispatched to the islands. According to Reuters, three Russian naval vessels also sailed close to the islands at around the same time as the Chinese warship, which has raised concerns of a coordinated exercise by Beijing and Moscow. Beijing said it was looking into the matter, but claimed that it was legal for its naval ships to pass through waters that belong to China.

Japan: Tokyo, New Delhi, Washington to stage naval exercises in East China Sea 8 June

Japan, India and the US are due to stage a large-scale naval exercise in the East China Sea, near Japan’s southwest islands, for eight days from 10 June. Japan will join the annual drill for the first time since 2007. The drill will likely raise tensions between the three countries and Beijing, which claims sovereignty over part of the Tokyo-controlled islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Kuwait: Police seize alcohol at Shuwaikh Port 6 June

Police arrested one person over an attempt to smuggle 2,800 bottles of liquor into the country. Officers seized the liquor from inside a shipment of electricity generators at Shuwaikh Port following a tip-off. Kuwait has long banned the sale of alcohol.

Libya: Government forces seize port in Sirte 10 June

Forces aligned with Libya’s unity government said they have taken control of the port of Sirte, making further gains in the Islamic State stronghold. A source from the operations room in Misrata said fighters from the front line in the south of Sirte had looped round to the seafront to capture the port, which lies about 5 km east of the city centre. The brigades are part of an operation supported by Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which arrived in Tripoli in March and has been gradually working to regain authority.

Libya: Warplanes attack Derna port 8 June

According to local media, aircraft bombed several areas of Derna including the port quay. There were no immediate reports of injuries, though there were indications of minor damage. Media aligned with the Tripoli government blamed opposing forces allied to the western rival government under General Khalifa Haftar for the attacks. Warplanes from Haftar’s dignity operation have repeatedly carried out attacks against the port to maintain an embargo in recent months.

Pakistan: Farmers protest across Sindh over Rohri canal closure 13 June

Farmers organised under the Pakistan People’s Party, the Sindh Adadgar Board and Sindh United Party held protests across Sindh province over the government’s closure of the Rohri canal, which is crucial for the irrigation of farmland. The government closed the canal due to damage in Naushahro district, but the protesters claim the damage was caused by the government failing to check the canal was well-maintained during its annual closure in January. The farmers are facing massive crop losses, and parties urged the government to take action against negligent maintenance officers.

Panama: Test runs start for expansion of Panama Canal 9 June

The first test runs along the newly expanded Panama Canal have been carried out successfully. A post-panamax bulk carrier was the first ship to pass through the canal’s new locks. The trial runs will help Panama Canal workers prepare for the start of commercial operations on 27 June when the first vessels will begin using the new “neopanamax” locks on either ends of the canal. The USD 5.3 bn expansion project has seen the construction of new locks which are wider and deeper than the current locks.

Russia: Moscow vows response after US naval ship enters Black Sea 10 June

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it will respond to the presence of a US naval ship with unspecified measures. According to the US navy, the USS Porter naval destroyer entered the Black Sea on 6 June on a routine deployment. The ministry also said the deployment of US aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean was a show of force which deepened tensions between Moscow and Washington caused by Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Russia: Navy intercepts Russian submarine in North Sea 8 June

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced the Royal Navy had intercepted a Russian submarine capable of carrying cruise missiles and torpedoes in the North Sea. Fallon said the submarine will be escorted through the English Channel. The Russian Embassy criticised the measures on social media, calling them unnecessary. The incident comes after several incursions by Russian military aircraft in UK airspace.

Seychelles: Court sentences five pirates to 12 years 10 June

The last group of Somali pirates that remained on trial in the Seychelles have been sentenced to 12 years in prison for two accounts of piracy each. Five pirates were charged with attacking a dhow and holding the Indian crew hostage in the Gulf of Aden between 1-18 January 2014. The pirates were transferred to Seychelles on 30 January as a result of a transfer agreement between the EU and Victoria. The 2005-2011 piracy surge in the Indian Ocean impacted the Seychelles’ tourism and fishing industry, prompting the nation to take a leading role in combating the spate of kidnappings at sea.

South Africa: Authorities arrest suspect in Durban Harbour drugs seizure 11 June

Members of a drug enforcement bureau have arrested a suspect in connection with the seizure of 60 kg of crystal methamphetamine at Durban Harbour on 7 June. The suspect was apprehended in Johannesburg. The drugs were found hidden in cargo bags mixed with food boxes.

South Korea: Seoul, UN Command begin joint patrols to stop illegal Chinese fishing 10 June

South Korea and the UN Command, which oversees the Korean War armistice, began a joint operation to patrol the 60-km stretch of waters in the Han River estuary that runs between the coasts of North and South Korea. The patrols aim to halt Chinese fishing vessels from operating illegally off the west coast. One official told Reuters that more than 10 Chinese vessels were fishing illegally in the waters earlier on 10 June and fled once the patrols began. Earlier in June, South Korean fishermen used rope to impound two Chinese trawlers and handed them over to authorities after the vessels failed to heed warnings from the coast guard.

South Korea: Authorities raid Daewoo Shipbuilding offices in Seoul 8 June

Officials raided Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering headquarters in Seoul as part of an investigation into alleged accounting irregularities and mismanagement. Authorities seized computer hard drives, accounting books and documents to investigate whether the world’s second largest shipbuilder manipulated financial statements between 2013 and 2014. The investigation comes as Daewoo faces low demand and rising debts after posting its biggest loss of USD 2.8 bn in 2015.

Thailand: Two Chinese tourists die in speedboat collision in Phuket 8 June

At least two Chinese tourists were killed and 34 others were injured when two speedboats collided at 1145 hrs local time in the Hin Musang area. The boats were travelling from Phuket to Ao Phangnga in Phangna and Phi Phi island in Krabi. The cause of the accident is yet to be determined. The incident occurred days after another speedboat carrying 28 people back from a music concert on the island of Koh Samet smashed into a container ship on 5 June.

Tunisia

According to local media, the coastguard rescued 14 Algerian suspected illegal immigrants around 53 nautical miles off the coast near the border with Algeria at Annaba. The coastguard took the migrants to the Bizerte naval base. Human smuggling attempts are common in Tunisia, which forms part of a major migrant route to Europe.

Turkey: Two sailors found dead on ship in Istanbul 8 June

Workers at a shipyard in the Tuzla district of Istanbul discovered the bodies of two sailors aboard a Russian vessel that had docked for maintenance and notified police. According to the CEO of the shipyard, the sailors were found dead and half naked in a bathroom of the ship’s cabin. Police are currently investigating the incident and believe the deaths took place before the ship was docked.

UK: Shippers, terminals seek clarity on IMO circular over SOLAS regulations 9 June

Container liners, terminal operators and forwarders have issued a number of statements asking for clarification from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) after the regulator issued a circular calling for leniency in implementing new SOLAS regulations. The IMO called for a flexible and pragmatic approach in implementing regulations on container weighing during a transitionary period between 1 July and 1 October 2016, although the statement left many confused as to what this would mean in practice.

Source: Protection Vessels International