Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report

Southeast Asia

Indonesia: Authorities confirm ASG kidnapping of seven seamen 23 June

The Samarinda Port authority has confirmed that seven Indonesian crewmembers of the TB Charles boat have been kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants in the Celebes Sea, off the coast of Indonesia’s Tanjung Mangkalihat in East Kalimantan. Six of the vessel’s crew were spared by the kidnappers, and reports have arisen that ASG has already demanded a ransom of USD 5 mn from boat owner PT Rusianto Bersaudara for the release of the hostages. ASG has escalated maritime kidnappings since March when 14 Indonesian seamen were kidnapped and later released, though it is unclear if ransoms were paid.

PVI Analysis: The report is the latest in a series of kidnappings at sea by the ASG Islamist group since March. At least 17 other Indonesian sailors have been kidnapped in separate incidents in March and April, with many of the abductees since released by the militants following successful coordination between Philippines and Indonesian security forces. Nevertheless, the incident indicates the continued ability of the group to perpetrate kidnappings despite the Indonesian and Philippines navies taking enhanced maritime security measures, including the coordination of joint patrols.

Indonesia: Robbers threaten crew with knife in Dumai Inner Anchorage 20 June

Three robbers armed with knives boarded a bulk carrier anchored at Dumai Inner Anchorage, and threatened a duty oiler not to raise the alarm upon sighting him in the engine room. The robbers entered the engine room through an open skylight and managed to escape with stolen engine spares. The oiler informed the duty officer after the assailants left. No crewmembers were injured during the robbery. The incident marks the second time robbers armed with knives have threatened crewmembers at Dumai Anchorage in recent days after a similar incident on 17 June.

PVI Analysis: Robbers often target vessels anchored off Indonesia, but recent reports suggest an increase in violent robberies at Indonesian anchorages. The latest incident follows an armed robbery on 15 June off Batam Island, and the theft at knifepoint of a tanker at Dumai Anchorage on 17 June. Although no injuries were reported in the incidents, they highlight the need for vessels in the region to remain vigilant.

Bangladesh: Robbers kidnap fishermen near Barguna District 14 June

According to a late report, a gang of robbers on a trawler attacked two other fishing trawlers, FB Mayer Doa-1 and FB Mayer Doa-2, around 54 nm south of Pathorghata Upazila, Barguna District in the Bay of Bengal. Twelve fishermen were kidnapped, but two escaped when the robbers’ trawler capsized as it was heading to the Sundarbans. Details of the remaining 10 fishermen were not disclosed.

PVI Analysis: Kidnappings are rarely reported through official channels in the Bay of Bengal, although local residents have raised concerns over the ongoing epidemic of kidnap for ransom of fishermen in the region, with many families unable to afford the large sums demanded by their abductors.

Select Maritime News

Belgium: EU moves towards creating European Border and Coast Guard 21 June

The creation of a European border control system received the first step of approval from the European Parliament and Council negotiators. The proposal aims to upgrade the Frontex border agency, which together with national border management authorities will form a European Border and Coast Guard. If it receives the approval of member states and European parliament, the regulation would enable extra border guard teams to be rapidly deployed to EU countries whose external borders are under pressure.

Bermuda: Merchant ship rescues 19 fishermen 21 June

The Bermuda Marine Operations Centre reported that the merchant ship K Coral rescued 19 Chinese and Indonesian fishermen from the fishing vessel Pioneer. The rescue took place after K Coral sighted fire and smoke in a position some 900 nm southeast of Bermuda. The fishing vessel was found on fire, with all crewmembers already in the water. All fishermen were reported to be in a stable condition, and the K Coral was diverted to Norfolk, Virginia, to bring them safely ashore.

China: Army capable of removing Philippine base from South China Sea 27 June

The state-run People’s Daily newspaper said that the People’s Liberation Army was capable of removing a Philippine naval vessel set up as a permanent base in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. The Philippines navy grounded an old US-built landing craft on the disputed atoll in 1999, triggering repeated protests from Beijing. The claim in People’s Daily is the latest instance of aggressive rhetoric by Beijing ahead of an imminent ruling by an international court in The Hague on China’s claims to territory in the region’s disputed waters in a case brought by the Philippines.

China: EU calls for freedom of navigation in South China Sea 22 June

The European Commission has declared countries must be free to pass through the South China Sea. The statement is the EU’s first diplomatic admonishment of Beijing after Chinese jets intercepted a US military plane over the contested waters in May. The Commission did not directly criticise Beijing, but warned that it opposed unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions over the islands. Washington has repeatedly urged Brussels to speak out against Beijing’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines have rival claims.

Colombia: Robbers thieve from tanker at Mammal Anchorage 25 June

Robbers boarded a China-flagged product tanker at Mammal Tanker Anchorage and fled unnoticed with the ship’s property. The theft was discovered later by the deck crew while they performed routine work near the forepeak store at 0500 hrs local time. The alarm was then raised and crew mustered. Investigations indicate the robbers gained access to the tanker via the hawse pipe.

Egypt: Court rules to cancel deal with Saudi Arabia over Red Sea Islands 21 June

An Egyptian State Council Administrative Court ruled in favour of voiding the maritime demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, under which Cairo was expected to hand over the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Riyadh. The court upheld Egypt’s sovereignty over the islands, even though both governments agreed on the transfer deal in April. The decision comes after a group of lawyers filed a lawsuit claiming that the government had wrongfully relinquished Egyptian sovereignty over the islands. The April deal led to nationwide protests in Egypt in which more than 150 people were arrested for rioting.

Falkland Islands: Buenos Aires renews call for talks on Falklands at UN 23 June

Argentina’s foreign minister Susana Malcorra used an appearance at the United Nations to issue a new appeal for negotiations with the UK on the status of the disputed Falkland Islands. She said the government was willing to resume negotiations with the UK in order to find a peaceful and definite solution to the sovereignty dispute. A spokesman for Britain’s UN mission said there could be no dialogue without the permission of the Falklanders, the majority who voted to maintain their current status in a 2013 referendum. Buenos Aires’ continued claims of sovereignty over the islands, which were briefly captured by Argentina in a 1982 conflict, have fuelled persistent tensions with the UK.

India: New Delhi, Dhaka to finalise river cruise deal 21 June

India and Bangladesh are finalising an agreement for a luxury cruise service between Kolkata and Dhaka, local media reported. The project along the 900-km route will be overseen by the Inland Waterways Authority of India and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation. Currently, both countries only permit the movement of cargo ships across the border.

Indonesia: Jakarta requests Philippines to guard vessels in regional waters 24 June

Indonesia’s Legal and Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan requested that Manila provide armed guards for Indonesian vessels transiting Philippine waters amid a series of offshore kidnappings by Philippine-based militant group Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). The most recent kidnapping by the Islamist militant group was on 21 June when ASG kidnapped seven Indonesian crewmembers in the Celebes Sea. The kidnappings have also suspended coal shipments from several Indonesian ports, disrupting trade between the two states.

Indonesia: Jakarta to maintain suspension of coal shipments to the Philippines 24 June

Indonesia said that a halt on coal shipments to the Philippines will remain until Manila can secure its waters. On 23 June, authorities said that the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group had abducted seven Indonesian seaman in the Celebes Sea, off the coast of Indonesia’s Tanjung Mangkalihat in East Kalimantan. The waters near southern Philippines have seen an increase in pirate attacks in recent months, which has prompted port authorities in some areas of Indonesia, particularly Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, to stop issuing permits to ships taking coal to the southern Philippines. Indonesia supplies 70 percent of the Philippines’ coal import needs.

Indonesia: President visits South China Sea islands on warship 23 June

President Joko Widodo sailed to the Natuna Islands on a warship in a bid to assert Indonesia’s sovereignty over the area, days after China claimed that both countries had overlapping claims in the sea. Government officials described the move as the strongest message Indonesia has sent to China. On 20 June, Beijing said that while China does not dispute Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna Islands, “some waters of the South China Sea” were subject to “overlapping claims on maritime rights and interests,” Reuters reported. Jakarta has rejected this assertion and claimed all waters around the islands.

Italy: Coast guard rescues more than 3,300 migrants, refugees 26 June

The Italian navy said that coastguard and military vessels rescued more than 3,300 migrants and refugees on 26 vessels during operations off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean over 25-26 June. The interior ministry said that around 60,000 migrants and refugees travelling by boat have been brought to Italy so far in 2016.

Italy: Coast Guard saves 4,500 migrants at sea in single day 23 June

The Italian Coast Guard has said it saved 4,500 migrants from tens of small vessels off the Libyan coast on 23 June, as refugees from the Middle East and Africa continue to attempt to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the 40 rescue operations took place about 40 km from the Libyan coast and there are reports that more operations are currently underway. More than 10,000 people have died trying to cross the sea since 2014, according to the UN.

Kenya: Authorities detain Yemeni, Somali boats in Lamu 25 June

Security officers detained a Yemeni and a Somali boat in the northern town of Lamu, accusing the vessels of crossing illegally into Kenyan waters. Navy officers said the crew failed to produce legal documents showing they had permission to transit Kenyan waters, with all crewmembers subsequently detained for questioning. The Kenyan Navy requires all boats to register with the Kenya Ports Authority before crossing into its territorial waters.

Malaysia: Indonesia fighter jets intercept plane flying over Natuna Islands 26 June

Two Indonesian fighter jets intercepted a Malaysian military transport plane flying over Indonesia’s Natuna Islands towards the eastern state of Sabah. Malaysian defence officials told the AFP that the plane was following a “regular route.” The Natuna Islands, which are located in the middle of the South China Sea, are a source of contention between Jakarta and Beijing. Although neither state is in a territorial dispute over the islands, China’s claims in the South China Sea include waters around the islands, which overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

Malaysia: Sabah maritime night curfew to be extended for 14 days 21 June

The night curfew on maritime travel off Malaysia’s Sabah is to be extended for another 14 days after 20 June, in a bid to prevent the intrusion of cross-border criminal and terrorist groups from the Philippines and Indonesia. Residents of Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran are required to stay indoors from 1900 to 0500 hrs, and the waters off those seven districts are also restricted from vessel travel during those times. Philippine kidnap groups, including Islamist militants Abu Sayyaf Group, have targeted people in Sabah in recent years.

Panama: Authorities open expanded Panama Canal 26 June

Panama opened the delayed USD 5.4 bn expansion of its shipping canal. The expansion triples the size of ships that can travel the canal, accommodating 98 percent of the world’s shipping vessels. So far, 170 ships have signed up to use the canal in the next three months. By 2021, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is hoping the project will bring in USD 2.1 bn per year in added revenue, accounting for 2.8 percent of gross domestic product. Construction on the new 77 km lane for the canal began in 2007 and was due to finish in 2014, but was delayed by strikes and disputes over costs.

Panama: Canal expansion to raise operational risks, insurance costs 21 June

The opening of the Panama Canal’s third lane for neo-Panamax vessels is likely to increase operational and commercial risks for insurers and shippers due to larger vessels and increased traffic, according to insurance consultants at Allianz Global. A report by Allianz found that an additional USD 1.25 bn worth of insured goods would pass through the canal per day and, compounded with increased traffic, lead to a higher risk of larger losses for vessels transiting the canal. The USD 5.2 bn expansion is due to open on 26 June and will allow for vessels up 13,000 twenty foot equivalent units to transit the canal.

South Korea: Seoul deploys Coast Guard ship to disputed East China Sea island 23 June

South Korea deployed its newest and largest Coast Guard ship, the 5,000-tonne Lee Cheong-ho, to monitor waters near the disputed Ieodo islet in the East China Sea which is claimed by China, Japan and South Korea. Leodo is called Suyan Reef in China and is otherwise known as Socotra Rock. Seoul has said the vessel will protect the islet from illegal fishing and guard the country’s territorial waters. The development introduces new dimensions to the ongoing dispute over the East China Sea’s Senkaku/Diaoyu islands which have caused tensions between China and Japan in recent years.

Thailand: Government to revive 20 unused ports and piers across country 27 June

Thailand’s transport ministry said that it had drawn up a plan to revitalise more than 20 unused ports and piers nationwide. Although the government has invested heavily in the development of ports and piers, the projects had not attracted much interest due to onerous requirements imposed on port operators. The deputy transport minister said that under a new plan, Bangkok would transfer operation rights for some abandoned piers to local administrations, and ensure that proposals that aim to collect the lowest ports and pier service fees would win contracts.

Yemen: Houthi rebels use advanced weapons in Bab el-Mandeb 26 June

A Yemeni army commander told the UAE’s Gulf News that Houthi rebels had used advanced weapons provided by Iran in recent offensives near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Karash region in Lahj province. Major General Ahmad Sayef Al Yafa said Houthi fighters had used Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles, as well as canons and mortars, in recent fighting near the Bab el-Mandeb.

Source: Protection Vessels International Ltd