Piracy News

SAFETY4SEA: What is currently the biggest challenge in maritime security from your perspective?

Jakob P. Larsen: There are several important security issues on the agenda, but I think the single most important issue the industry faces is the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Judging from statistics, the problem has been escalating these past few weeks. This may be because we get closer the 2019 Nigerian general election, where past years’ piracy trend has traditionally been upward, for whatever reason.

Another important issue on the agenda is the developing situation in the Red Sea, where the conflict in Yemen occasionally spills over to the maritime domain. In this regard, it is important not to dramatize the risks to shipping. It is mainly warships and shipping interests with ties to countries in the Saudi-led coalition that are at risk. Other commercial shipping mainly face a smaller risk of getting caught in the middle of hostilities. Such collateral damage can be serious enough, but the risk is smaller and can be managed if following the existing guidance in BMP5.

S4S: Regarding piracy, latest OBP report unveiled that the situation in the Gulf of Guinea hasn’t been improved while Somalia’s piracy comeback is notable, after a five-year hiatus. What are your views with respect to the state of maritime security in Somalia?

J.P.L: In the waters off Somalia we have seen a small number of reports where shipping has been attacked, but we have not seen a successful boarding of a larger commercial vessel since the boarding and subsequent failed kidnap attempt on the bulk carrier OS 35 in April 2017 in the Gulf of Aden. Since then, apparent piracy activity has been sporadic with only very few incidents reported. The current low levels of Somali piracy activity is a testament to the success of the international cooperation on areas such as ship protection, naval intervention, arrest and prosecution and establishing of alternative livelihoods for would-be pirates. But this success is still reversible, and if we allow complacency to set in and remove all risk mitigation, it is likely that the problem will come back again in force.

S4S: What is the overall situation in the hottest piracy spots with respect to piracy figures? Is the number lower or under reported? Do you believe that there is a need for addressing the issue further from a regulatory perspective?

J.P.L: There is a persistent claim in the industry, that many piracy incidents especially in the Gulf of Guinea region goes unreported. If true, this may have something to do with the nature of the petroleum industry where safety and security concerns are typically higher on the agenda than in other industries. The positive impact this has had on safety and security records cannot be overstated, but in such a business environment, a company with a poor security record can eventually lose business, and this is unfortunately an incentive to under-report. More regulation is not the answer to this problem. Regulation is already in place which puts a reporting responsibility on the industry and on flag states. Rather, what is needed is a change of mindset so that shared reporting is seen as something that saves lives and benefits all, and that in reality, national or commercial interests will only rarely warrant that information sharing is restricted.

S4S: When do you think, we as an industry will be in a position to assume that the piracy threat is insignificant and why?

J.P.L: I am afraid that we will probably never get to a point where the piracy threat is insignificant. Human nature is such that there will always be criminals that try to prey on ships transporting valuable cargoes and seafarers vulnerable to kidnap. What we must do as an industry is to constantly improve our risk mitigation techniques. For example, I am sure that there are some low-hanging fruits to be picked when it comes to integrated security features for future ship designs. I am not talking about turning ships into fortresses, but simply remembering to also take basic security considerations into account during the design phase can make a valuable yet inexpensive difference. I hope that improved risk mitigation measures together with the previously mentioned change of mindset can help suppress the piracy risk even more than today.

S4S: What do you think should be industry’s priority to move forward?

J.P.L: Over the years, the industry with Navy partners have moved forward together in several areas. Together, we have come far in terms of developing guidance, sharing information and tackling specific problems like off Somalia. We should continue to strengthen this relationship and the joint efforts in a meaningful way, and importantly, we in the industry shall remain vigilant and not allow complacency to set in when things seem to be going a little better.

Jakob P. Larsen is the Head of Maritime Security at BIMCO – the World’s largest shipowner association with more than 2,100 members globally.

Info on piracy threats to, and criminal action against, merchant vessel in the last 30 days
The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) has issued Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report to provide information on piracy threats to and criminal action against merchant vessels worldwide in the last 30 days.

press here for more information

Secure a Ship (SaS) a Maritime Security Company based in the UK has come to the rescue of a stranded sailor.

On Thursday 08 August 2013, the alert security team spotted smoke 7NM away; on further inspection it was apparent a vessel was in distress

Press HERE for full story.

Piracy Profile by Port – West Africa

Lagos/Port Harcourt, Nigeria

• On 30 July, the Hong Kong-flagged underway-chemical tanker HIGH JUPITER was fired upon at 03:31 N – 006:05 E, approximately 45 nm south of Brass. A gunboat claiming to be a Nigerian navy boat called a chemical tanker on VHF and asked details of vessel, cargo, last and next ports. This information was passed to the gun boat. After approximately 15 minutes, the gun boat approached the vessel at high speed and demanded that the vessel be stopped and boarding permitted. The Master informed them that he would not be stopping due to the areas high risk for piracy attacks. The gun boat threatened them and followed the vessel for 20 minutes and then fired two shots in the air. The Master immediately raised the alarm over VHF and requested ships in the vicinity relay its message to port control, which was not responding to its calls. Upon hearing the VHF alarm, the gun boat moved away.
• Piracy incidents are often violent and there have been numerous incidents of crew members being injured and some killed.
• Pirate gangs have attacked and hijacked vessels/kidnapped crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters.
• Attacks have been reported as far as 120 nautical miles from the coast.
• Some pirate incidents have been reported to have gone on for several days while the pirates ransack vessels, stealing cargo and gas oil.
• The majority of pirate incidents in Nigerian waters have occurred to the south west of Port Harcourt and in the vicinity of Lagos Port.
• Financial considerations rather than political or ideological ones predominantly motivate piracy and kidnapping off the Gulf of Guinea, and foreign hostages are normally taken to induce ransom payments. Piracy within the region is increasing, with Nigerian waters (Niger Delta) recording the most number of incidents of any country in the Gulf of Guinea. This trend shows no signs of lessening.
• The regional scope of the threat should prompt Nigeria to seek further international co‐operation and joint naval patrols with neighbouring countries.

Cotonou, Benin

• Quantity of attacks in the area has decreased significantly due to the increase in security patrols, although the threat persists.
• Pirates in the area are assessed to be well armed and capable of utilizing violence in order to achieve their objectives judging by previous incidents where crewmembers have been injured.
• Past attacks have included incidents of pirates/robbers firing at ships.
• Pirates in the past have forced the ship’s crew to sail to unknown location where the ship’s cargo has been stolen (gas oil).
• Recent patrols by Benin and Nigerian Authorities resulted in a drop in the number of attacks. However, vessels are advised to continue to be vigilant and maintain strict anti‐piracy watches and measures.

Lome, Togo

• On 16 July, the Marshall Islands-flagged underway product tanker OCEAN CENTURION was hijacked at 05:29 N – 001:38 E, approximately 46 nm southeast of Lome. Armed pirates in two speed boats approached, boarded, and hijacked the product tanker. They took hostage all crew members, stole their personal belongings, ordered the Master to sail south, and then north towards the Togo/Benin border. The pirates then disembarked and escaped via a speedboat, 12nm from the coastline. The Togo Navy was informed about the hijacking and a patrol boat was dispatched, which escorted the tanker to Lome anchorage for investigation. Two crew members were injured during the incident and were transferred to a clinic for medical attention.
• Attacks are increasing and the Port of Lome has the second highest levels of piracy in the region, after Port Harcourt.
• Pirates in the area are well armed, violent and dangerous.
• Attacks usually occur at night and some have resulted in the vessel being hijacked for several days, while the cargo is stolen.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast

• On 31 July, the Cayman Islands-flagged anchored bulk carrier ATHOS was boarded at 05:13 N – 004:03 W, at the Abidjan Anchorage. Robbers boarded the ship at anchor using a long pole with a hook. The crew spotted them and raised the alarm.
• Hijacking incidents have occurred with pirates sailing a tanker to Nigeria to off load part cargo and stealing crew’s valuables indicated.
• Again due to the increased security patrolling in the more traditional pirate prone areas, the threat has spread to other less well protected areas, such as the Ivory Coast
• Pirates may also target vessels at neighboring Ghana.
• Most likely area for a pirate attack is in the waters surrounding Abidjan.

Douala, Cameroon

• Piracy is usually conducted in the surrounding waters of Cameroon, as oppose to the ports, rivers and anchorages. Historically though there have been attacks conducted at Cameroon’s largest port, Douala, therefore vigilance needs to be maintained throughout the area.
• Pirate attacks usually consist of robbery and kidnap (typically of Eastern Europeans).
• Piracy in Cameroon’s coastal waters is currently abating, however, if it re‐intensifies it will have a negative impact for the Economic Community of Central African States’ (ECCAS) largest economy.

Accra, Ghana

• Ghanaian coastal waters remain relatively free of piracy, even though the Gulf of Guinea is witnessing an upturn in incidents.
• Any piracy attack will likely occur near to the Ghanaian coast, particularly in the vicinity of Accra, Cape Coast and Takoradi.
• Ghana’s burgeoning offshore extractive industries are increasingly likely to be the target of pirate attacks, as has been seen elsewhere in the region. The oil rich region of Takoradi is particularly at risk.

Gabon

• On 15 July, approximately 12 to 15 gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles hijacked the anchored Malta-flagged tanker COTTON and its 23 crewmembers approximately 13 nm off Gentil Port.

Outlook – West Africa

Although regional naval coordination is being increased, there are no short‐term solutions to stopping piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, especially as the rewards can be so lucrative. In the short‐term, operators are mostly on their own, with limited support from the international and regional forces. Secure A Ship is helping the military forces and its shipping clients with solutions to help prevent piracy but it will take time for adequate security forces to be developed. An effective resilience plan must be in place which includes training, physical security measures, emergency planning that Secure A Ship is currently completing by using the same security guards and continuous training and understanding of RUF & Standing Operating Procedures to West Africa forces who work in conjunction with us. Until the regional nations curb corruption and more money is spent on social factors such as education, health and employment piracy and armed robbery is unlikely to be curbed anytime soon.
West Africa will remain the rising problem area. Nigeria hasn’t contained the major insurgent group Boko Haram operating in the north of the country and the security focus will stay there for a long time to come. This means maritime security must be of the highest priority. The hijack near Gabon may indicate the rising capacity of the pirates to conduct their operations to longer distances than before. Also, there are signs that they are about to adopt the similar model as Somali pirates have had – besides stealing the cargo they will likely demand the ransom for the vessel and crew on top. Arranging for experienced armed security in the area seems the only option, which will keep your vessel and crew safe as the case studies indicate.

Last week EU Naval Force confirmed that the Malaysian flagged Motor Vessel, MV Albedo, held by armed pirates in an anchorage close to the Somali coast since November 2010, had sunk in rough seas.

Since then EU Naval Force warships and a Maritime Patrol Aircraft have conducted sea and air searches in the area to look for survivors.

As reported last week, an EU Naval Force Maritime Patrol Aircraft sighted two life boats on a Somali beach approximately 14 miles north of the position of the Albedo. No members of the MV Albedo crew or pirates were sighted in or near the lifeboats.

Yesterday, a helicopter from an EU Naval Force warship overflew MV Albedo and the fishing vessel FV Naham 3, which is tied astern of MV Albedo’s visible superstructure by ropes. FV Naham 3 was pirated on 26 March last year with 28 hostages on board.

The EU Naval Force helicopter was able to confirm that FV Naham 3 remains under the control of pirates, with aerial photographs showing armed men on the upper deck. There have been no sightings of the MV Albedo or FV Naham 3 hostages on board FV Naham 3, so their whereabouts cannot be verified by EU Naval Force at this time.

It is understood that negotiations are on-going between a hostage support programme and the pirates to try and secure the safe release of the hostages.

Todays round up of piracy related news from The New York Times

Somali waters are no longer the most heavily pirated in the world, according to a recent CNBC investigation. Global piracy is becoming increasingly problematic for governments, shipping firms, cruise lines, mariners and energy companies.

Based on International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB) data, Somalia and Gulf of Aden still have pirate-infested waters, but over the last five quarters, a new country’s national waters have become the most heavily pirated on earth.

Indonesia’s 17,500 islands and their surrounding waters now take the title as the world’s most heavily pirated.

National navies are becoming progressively more active in combating piracy, along with more armed security companies being employed on commercial vessels and tankers.

Full article here

Todays round up of piracy related news from The New York Times

Todays round up of piracy related news from The New York Times

Todays round up of piracy related news from The New York Times