Piracy Situation Risk Assessment, January 2014, Issue 21 Highlights of the Past Month and Year 2013:
In December the reported criminal activity against shipping was one of the lowest in 2013. Two crew members have been abducted near Nigeria on 18.12. and there is no news on them in public media since then. Probably the negotiations over the ransom are ongoing. There were also two serious attempts of hijacking in Gulf of Aden on 09.12. Two vessels experienced approach and came under fire in nearby vicinity within one hour. Most likely the attacks were conducted by the same pirate group. In both cases armed security teams repelled the pirates and the vessels left unharmed. The pirate group managed to escape and hide before Naval Forces arrived.
Instability and serious clashes in many Indian Ocean and South China States have continued and escalated. This has probably created options for many robbers to try their luck as the local security forces’ priorities are to protect the State against the protestors. There were at least 13 robberies or stealing incidents reported in Southeast Asia region, mainly near Indonesia during December.
Nigerian security forces have reported a good success in fight against pirates and oil stealers. With the end of the year they have killed nearly 200 pirates and kidnappers, arrested near 2000 oil thieves and also destroyed a large amount of refinery camps.
2013 in total has seen generally lower rate of violent attacks towards commercial shipping. Despite some reports rush to announce that Somali pirates have hijacked zero vessels in 2013 it is not entirely true. According to IMB at least 15 serious incidents have taken place last year including two hijackings. According to UKTMO Somali pirates still hold approximately 64 seamen in hostage. Some of them have been living in captivity since April 2010. For Nigeria related incidents IMB advises that there have been more than 30 incidents and at least 3 kidnapping incidents.
Latest major incidents: WEST AFRICA NIGERIA: On 16 December, ten pirates attacked the Marshall Islands-flagged oil products tanker MT ALTHEA and its 18 crewmembers approximately 35 nm off the Niger Delta. After boarding the vessel, the pirates kidnapped the Ukrainian captain and a Greek engineer. (Reuters)
CAMEROON: On 3 December, pirates boarded a coastal cargo vessel near position 04:20 N – 008:45 E, approximately 10 nm off the Cameroon coast. Two speedboats with eight pirates in each boat attacked the vessel and briefly board the vessel before a security team of Cameroon soldiers engaged the robbers in a firefight which forced the pirates to flee the ship. Several pirates were killed during the firefight. (www.news.odin.tc) INDIAN OCEAN, RED SEA, PERSIAN GULF GULF OF ADEN: On 9 December at 0348 UTC, five suspected armed pirates in a skiff approached a bulk cargo ship near position 12:52 N – 047:52 E, approximately 122 nm northwest of Bosaso, Somalia. The master raised alarm, activated fire hoses, sounded ship's horn, and took evasive maneuvers while non-essential crew members mustered in the citadel. The armed security team took their positions and showed their weapons, but the skiff continued to approach the ship even after the armed security team fired a warning flare towards the skiff. The security team then proceeded to fire warning shots as the skiff closed to the ship. The pirates responded by engaging the ship with small fire arms and the security team returned fire resulting in the pirates aborting the attempted boarding. A military helicopter came to the location to provide assistance and locate the pirates. (IMB, NATO Shipping Centre) GULF OF ADEN: On 9 December at 0330 UTC, five suspected pirates in a skiff attacked a tanker near position 12:50 N – 047:49 E, approximately 122 nm northwest of Bosaso, Somalia. The Master raised alarm, activated fire hoses, increased speed, took evasive maneuvers, and contacted UKMTO for assistance. The armed embarked security team took their positions and showed their weapons resulting in the pirates aborting the attempted boarding. A military helicopter came to the location to assist and locate the pirates. (IMB, NATO Shipping Centre) 2/4
MEDITERRANEAN SEA No incidents reported. SOUTHEAST ASIA SINGAPORE STRAITS: 13.10.2013: 0045 LT: Posn: 01:14N - 104:03E, Robbers armed with knives boarded a barge under tow, stole cargo and escaped. Authorities contacted who had dispatched a patrol craft to assist. All crew safe.
SOUTH AMERICA BRAZIL: On 22 December, a duty crewman noticed three armed robbers opening cargo containers on an anchored container vessel near position 24:07 S - 046:19 W, Santos Anchorage Area No. 4. The crewman was able to inform the bridge before being taken hostage by the robbers. When the alarm was raised, the robbers released the crewman and escaped in a small fast boat with cargo stolen from the containers. The Harbor Master was informed and soon afterward a Federal Police patrol arrived to investigate. (IMB)
Summary and recommendations:
There is no reason to believe that January and 2014 in full will see major changes in piracy trends. Most likely Somali pirates will keep trying to find vessels that are purely defended. So far they have not been successful and all the attacked vessels have had a team of armed security onboard. The less security teams will be hired the more the chances of the pirates to abduct a vessel will rise. Also the security situation in Somalia in general will not likely get any better. The terror group Al Shabab has grown stronger and will promote the further instability throughout the whole country that in turn will maintain the favorable conditions for pirate gangs to operate. Likely all it will take now is just one successfully hijacked vessel that may initiate a new wave of attacks. They are still there and hungry.
Nigerian security forces have done good job over the past few months and hopefully the initiative will continue. However, it does not mean the Gulf of Guinea will be safe anytime soon. The area is simply too large and the options are always there. As the illegal oil refinery infrastructure has come under heavier attack the more likely kidnapping of the crew members for ransom will come to trend. Full protection measures and professional security consultants are still highly advised to employ.
Situation in South China Sea region is worrisome and likely to worsen. The protests and rebellious movements are hurting the security structures that were at least trying to implement some control over the criminality on seas. Already majority of attacks in Indonesia occur in anchorages that are near naval bases and the response is virtually nonexistent. Therefore the complete BMP4 settings are advised to keep in force throughout the region.
Sources: ICC, NATO, ONI, NGA, UKMTO, Oceanus Live, Shipping Position, Maritime Bulletin, Marsecreview, Reuters, CNN, BBC, NYT, Al Jazeera, All Africa, cCaptain, Hellenic Shipping News, Want China Times, DefenceWeb, New Straits Times, Sahara Reporters, IHS Maritime etc.
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