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Piracy Situation Risk Assessment, May 2014, Issue 25 Highlights of the Past Month: 

Last month has seen the similar pirate activities comparing to the last month. The main sources reported at least 4 suspicious events in Indian Ocean/Red Sea area where the clear tripwires were identified, two serious incidents near Nigeria, of from one ended with fatality of the crew member, and at least 14 robberies or attempts in South China Sea region.

There is a rising scouting of armed skiffs around Bab El Mandeb Strait, Red Sea area. Several skiffs are reported trying to approach, carring RPG or ladder in some occasions.

Somali pirates had fled a captured vessel after they had spotted Spanish EU Naval Force maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. The master of the dhow told the story on April 26. He said that his vessel had been captured by 6 pirates who had been armed. The dhow and the crew had been taken hostages. The pirates left the scene after pressure applied by the EU Naval Force from the sea and the air. The pirates had planned to use the vessel as a kind of "mother ship" to attack merchant vessels at sea.

Armed pirates attacked Naniwa Maru No.1, a Japanese oil tanker, off the coast of Malaysia. They abducted three sailors and have stolen half of the cargo carried by the vessel. According to the Malaysian maritime police, the accident happened on Wednesday at 1.00 am local time in the Malacca strait while Naniwa Maru was en route from Myanmar to Singapore loaded with 5 million litres of diesel and 18 crew members on board. The pirates managed to pump out over 2.5 million litres of diesel into two waiting boats and have kidnapped three Indonesian crew members. However, the authorities now suspect the three crew members, that have been kidnapped, are part of the criminal group. The theory of the police has been based on the fact that the master, the chief engineer and the chief officer of Naniwa Maru No.1 have disappeared with their personal belongings, including passports and clothes. This, combined with the fact that no ransom demand has been made for the three missing Indonesian, give extra credence to the theory.

Near Nigeria a merchant sailor was killed during a shootout between maritime security forces and pirates aboard the Medaillon Reedererei-owned product tanker SP Brussels. During the exchange of gunfire, two of the pirates were killed by the armed guards and one other crew member sustained minor injuries. The ship was carrying a crew of 17 plus two armed guards at the time of the incident.


Latest major incidents: INDIAN OCEAN, RED SEA, PERSIAN GULF GULF OF ADEN: On 17 April, five armed persons in a skiff approached an underway bulk carrier near position 12:24N –043:42E, approximately 21 nm southeast of Perim Island, Yemen. The ship’s master raised alarm, mustered the crew, increased speed and charged fire hoses. The onboard security team fired flares, but the skiff continued its approach. At a distance of 0.15nm a ladder was sighted in the skiff and the security team showed their weapons, resulting in the skiff aborting the attempt and moving away. (IMB) GULF OF ADEN: On 14 April, seven persons armed with an RPG in a white-and blue skiff approached an oil tanker near position 12:25 N – 043:43 E, south of the Bab El Mandeb Strait in the Gulf of Aden. The ship’s master raised the alarm, sounded ship’s whistle, activated fire hoses, and fired two warning flares. When the armed embarked security team displayed their weapons, the skiff departed the area. The security team reported observing a ladder on the skiff during the incident. (IMB) YEMEN: On 13 April, four persons in a skiff approached an underway chemical tanker near position 13:58 N – 055:32 E, approximately 106 nm northeast of Socotra Island, Yemen. The master raised alarm, increased speed, and mustered the non-essential crew members in the citadel. As the skiff closed to four cables, the armed embarked security team fired a warning shot, which resulted in the skiff departing the area. The security team reported observing a ladder on the skiff during the incident. (IMB)


GULF OF ADEN: On 5 April, five persons in a skiff approached an underway chemical tanker near position 12:35 N – 043:26 E, Bab El Mandeb Strait, Red Sea. The master raised alarm, altered course, and directed non-essential crew members to muster in a safe room. When the skiff got to within a third of a nautical mile of the tanker, the armed embarked security team fired a warning shot, which resulted in the skiff departing the area. (IMB) OMAN: On 5 April, two skiffs and a dhow approached a merchant vessel to within 300 meters near position 2015 N- 05902E, approximately 15 nm from Masirah Island, Oman. When an armed embarked security team fired warning shots, the skiffs turned away. (NATO Shipping Centre)

WEST AFRICA NIGERIA: 29.04.2014: 1931 UTC: Posn: 04:56N – 004:49E, Around 35nm West of Bayelsa Province Coast. Two armed pirates boarded a product tanker underway. As the crew retreated into the citadel the on board armed team fired at the pirates. Most of the crew including the guards managed to retreat into the citadel. Head count in the citadel indicated two crew missing. When the guards and crew emerged from the citadel they found the C/E had been killed and the 3/O with injuries. The vessel headed towards Lagos. NIGERIA: On 23 April, three individuals in a small boat approached an anchored tanker carrying out STS operations near position 06:17N – 003:21E, 6.3 nm south-southwest of Lagos breakwater. The suspected robbers tried to board the ship via the anchor chain. Onboard Nigerian security guard raised the alarm and fired a warning shot, causing the robbers to move away. (IMB)


SOUTHEAST ASIA BANGLADESH: 24.04.2014: 0250 LT: Posn: 21:51N – 091:40E, Chittagong OPL. Around 20 robbers in two boats boarded an anchored bulk carrier, broke into the forward stores, stole ship’s property and escaped. The ship’s attempt to contact the coast guard failed but message was relayed by another ship in the vicinity.

MALAYSIA: On 22 April, up to ten heavily armed pirates boarded and hijacked a product tanker near position 02:59N – 100:54E, 3 nm west-northwest of One Fathom Bank, near Port Klang. The pirates pumped out 3 million liters of the 4.5 million liters of diesel carried by the tanker into two waiting vessels and then kidnapped three Indonesian crew members, including the captain and chief engineer. (IMB, gCaptain, INDONESIA: On 19 April, five robbers armed with knives attempted to board an anchored general cargo ship near position 03:55N – 098:46E, Belawan Anchorage. They took hostage a duty crewman on the forecastle and stole his personal belongings. The incident was noticed by the crew near the stern who informed the bridge. Duty officer raised and mustered the crew. Upon hearing the alarm, the robbers escaped with the stolen items in their wooden boat. The duty crewman received minor injuries. (IMB) MALAYSIA: On 17 April, 16 armed pirates boarded and hijacked an underway product tanker near position 01:59 N – 104:25 E, 26 nm south-southwest of Pulau Aur. The pirates then transferred part of the fuel cargo into smaller unknown tankers. Crew and ship properties were stolen and ship communication equipment damaged. Master and crew managed to repair the damage and proceed to a safe port. (IMB)


Summary and recommendations: 

Continuous suspicious activity by skiffs with weapons and ladders sighted in vicinity of Strait of Bab el-Mandeb and Gulf of Aden advises to keep extreme caution and alertness within this area. The incidents also advise that the pirates are monitoring and are ready to take on unprotected vessels. The incident with freed “mother ship” shows the signs of a serious set up of an organised activities.

Deadly incident near Nigeria is highlighting poor planning of security settings. Two men security team is in violation of common sense and security thumb rules in this envrionment. While this is raising trend in eastern side as well, it should never be accepted. Two guards, no matter how good they are, cannot provide 100% observation and readiness on the vessel. The best proven settings in this area has proven to be two unarmed consultants from reputable security company advising and managing local four men armed team. Shortcuts in security will often be paid with lives of people in those areas. For longer comment on that incident please see our Linked In page here: under the news topic: Sailor Killed During Gun Battle With Pirates Off Nigeria.

Malasia incidents show likely raise of organized crime events. The West African style robbery of fuel is not the first of its kind in those waters and is likely to be developped towards more sophisticated system. Extremely high alertness and readiness to repel the criminals is required passing the mentioned areas.

Sources: ICC, NATO, ONI, NGA, UKMTO, Clearwater, 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, Maritime Security Asia, Handy Shipping Guide etc.

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