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Piracy situation risk assessment, October 2013, Issue 18 Highlights of the past month: 

In September there has been very low incident level of piracy or robbery related attacks. The reports reveal one hijack attempt in West Africa and eight robbery incidents in Southeast Asia according to ICC. However, there are some other sources bringing out few incidents that are not appearing in official accounts for some reason.

There is an article that a 110,000-tonne Chinese cargo ship, the Zhongyuan Yazhou, has been rescued by the Egyptian navy after it was attacked in the Suez Canal. The incident allegedly took place on 31. August. However, the incident is not confirmed by any other sources. Instead of this the rocket propelled grenade attack was confirmed to container ship Cosco Asia (described in Aburgus previous risk assessment). Two attacks?

There is another newspaper reporting that on 18 September insurgents have tried to intercept a tanker in the town of Al Alqa in the province of Shabwa in southeastern Yemen.

Despite the lowest activity rate by Somali pirates last month International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has issued a warning to shipping about the potential for a rise in piracy off the eastern coast of Africa as the monsoon season subsides. Also UKMTO have reported an increase in suspicious activity within the High Risk Area affected by Somalia-based maritime piracy. In September they have counted some eight suspicious approaches of skiffs to the commercial vessels. It remains unclear were those reconnaissance attempts or maneuvers to warn of the presence of the fishing nets.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency has given out a warning that pirates are masquerading as sea traders in ferries and small boats to identify vessels that are carrying valuable cargo or are easy pickings.

Also the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has warned against members of the vessels hijack syndicate pose as ship chatterers seeking to hire vessels for petroleum liquids ship-to-ship operations.

Latest major incidents: WEST AFRICA NIGERIA: On 4 September, an underway chemical tanker was fired upon at position 04:11 N - 005:34 E, 20 nm south of Pennington Oil Terminal. As a speed boat approached the chemical tanker, the duty officer raised the alarm, alerted the crew and made evasive maneuvers. The pirates tried to board the vessel using hooks attached to a rope. The onboard security team fired warning shots at the boat and the pirates retaliated by returning fire. Facing resistance, the pirates aborted the attempt and moved away from the scene. (IMB, OCL) 1/3

MEDITERRANEAN SEA No incidents reported. INDIAN OCEAN, RED SEA, PERSIAN GULF No incidents reported. SOUTHEAST ASIA MALAYSIA: On 23 September, an underway offshore supply tug experienced a boarding at position 04:52 N - 104:05 E, approximately 22 nm east-northeast of Pulau Tenggul. Eight pirates wearing masks armed with a hand gun and long knives in a high speed craft approached and boarded the ship. They took hostage all crew members, tied them up and stole their personal belongings. After about three hours, the pirates left the vessel. Crew managed to free themselves and the Master reported the incident to the owners. Vessel returned to the port of departure where the authorities boarded the vessel for an investigation. Master reports a possibility of a mother vessel in the vicinity. (IMB) INDONESIA: On 21 September, an anchored bulk freighter was boarded at position 00:16 S - 117:41 E, Samarinda Anchorage. Ten robbers armed with knives and steel bars boarded the ship during cargo operations. They took hostage a duty crewman conducting routine rounds, assaulted him, robbed him of personal belongings, tied him up and then broke into the bosun locker. The duty officer noticed the robbers, raised the alarm and crew mustered. Upon hearing the alarm the robbers escaped in their wooden boat with stolen ship stores. Port Authorities informed by VHF radio. (IMB)


Summary and recommendations: 

Despite the relevantly calm piracy situation in September the four-day battle in Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall with the Somalia-based Islamist group Al-Shabaab is a reminder that the threats emanating from the war-torn East African country that remains a hotbed for pirate attacks on key shipping routes.

There are concerning developments in Yemen where insurgents seriously challenge military forces. This is happening mainly in coastal areas where it can easily create the opportunity for piracy and robbery surges by criminal elements. Extra caution is highly advised for vessels calling Yemen ports.

As more time passes with no pirate successes there will be a temptation to cut back on the security efforts by vessel companies. According to some sources that is what the pirates are waiting for. Latest concerns point out a growing violence against Somalia refugees in Kenya as revenge of the attack Al-Shabaab carried out. This may force a great number out of 500.000 refugees to move back to Somalia where they have likely no other way to survive than to engage to piracy again. Therefore it is highly discouraged to shortcut on security by hiring some dirt cheap teams who cannot provide the actual protection in case of the surge by pirates. And the surge will likely happen soon as the security situation in Somalia has not proven, the weapons are still easily accessible and the need for survival of potential pirates is growing daily. The only thing that holds them back is the level of onboard security that is against their favor. Once the security is removed they will have a ball.

Sources: ICC, NATO, ONI, NGA, Oceanus Live, Maritime Bulletin, Marsecreview, Reuters, CNN, BBC, NYT, Al Jazeera, All Africa, cCaptain, Hellenic Shipping News, Want China Times etc.

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Risk assessment oct13