01. From 1 January to 31 July 2016 there is no piracy activity reported in the East Africa (GOA/HOA) region and Red Sea due to the presence of the Multinational Naval Forces, as well as and ship owners’ efforts to fortify their vessels according to the Best Management Practices for Protection Against Piracy (BMP4) and the employment of private armed security guards on board. Although several approaches have been attempted not a single incident of piracy has been reported leading to a highjack of a vessel and consequently to a delivery of ransom.
02. The reduced “High Risk Area” (HRA) for piracy in the Indian Ocean continues to give a good excuse to ship owners to not employ Privately Contracted Armed Security Guards on board vessels transiting from Arabian Gulf ports to Far East destinations in order to reduce costs. This of course encourages pirates/robbers not only from Somalia but also from Yemen, Iran and India to launch small scale robberies in that area.
03. On 8 January 2016, two assailants alleged themselves as pirates landed by boat at the Bella Vista Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt. The two attackers wearing suicide vests and carrying ISIS flags killed three European nationalities tourists and tried to rob small boats moored alongside the hotel’s pier. The two pirates were killed by Egyptian Security Forces.
04. Local conflict and situation at Yemen remains unstable and subject to change. All vessels calling Yemeni ports should be vigilant and prior entering to port should apply for clearance from the Saudi Arabian-led Naval Forces coalition. According to latest information received from our local agents/sources, the port situation in Yemen as follows:
Open: Salif, Hodeidah, Aden, Mukalla and Ash Shihr oil terminal.
Closed: Mokha, Ras Isa Marine Terminal and Balhaf LNG Terminal.
The capacities of the above operating ports may also be limited as some ports are reported to have prolonged power cuts, unavailability of cranes and may also lack supplies of fuel, manpower and other basic services.
05. From January 2016 until July 2016 many robberies were reported within the Indian territorial waters while vessels were at anchorage or drifting OPL Kandla, Alang or Sikka, all Indian ports situated West Side. Most of the robbers were on board small fishing vessels flying no flag and managed to steal from vessels navigational equipment, VHF radios, ship’s stores, firefighting equipment and other valuable items including master’s cash. It seems that Indian Navy is quite weak as law enforcement agent even in the territorial waters.
06. On 3 March 2016 it has been reported that armed robbers boarded a berthed tanker at Mbaraki Wharf Mombassa, Kenya threatened crew members and escaped with ships stores and other valuables with no casualties from both sides.
07. On 24 April 2016 a bulk carrier has been attacked whilst anchored near Port of Al Mukala, Yemen. The armed pirates in two skiffs came along side, totally ignoring Port Security authorities and opened fire against the vessel. The security team on board returned fire which resulted in the pirates aborting their attack and leaving the vicinity.
08. The reported activity in West Africa (Liberia, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo, Nigeria) has increased significantly from January 2016 to July 2016. Pirates continued to target fuel cargo and loading it onto other smaller ships to sell it on the lucrative market or kidnapping individuals from vessels’ crew seeking ransom to release them. A few highjacks of small product tankers were also reported in the wider area of Gulf of Guinea and up to the River States inland.
09. On 9 January 2016 it has been reported that a speedboat with 8 armed men on-board attempted to approach the platform Aunty Julie within the Conoil Oil Field (Niger Delta). The MV Sunshine, the security vessel for the platform spotted and intercepted the approach. The embarked Nigerian Navy personnel exchanged gunfire and repelled the attack. The speedboat fled towards an unknown location. No casualties have been reported.
10. On 23 February 2016 it has been reported and confirmed by the Shipping Company that one of their Offshore Support Vessel whilst on route to Onne from Lagos came under attack, pirates came onboard and kidnapped two crew members who are still under seizure as hostages.
11. On 12 March 2016 it has been reported that an unknown number of pirates attacked a fishing trawler whilst she was on route to Lome from Gabon. The pirates managed to board the trawler and kidnap two of the crew members. The trawler continued her voyage to Lome, the pirates have contacted the fishing company and demanded a ransom for the two crew members. Both members were released after negotiations and delivery of ransom.
12. On 4 April 2016 it has been reported that an unknown number of pirates have attacked a passenger boat whilst underway in the Nembe Creeks, Nigeria. During the attack two expatriates of unknown nationalities were kidnapped, one military personnel killed and one military personnel is missing.
13. On 9 May 2016 a report has been issued stating that the deck watch on board an anchored tanker observed a single engine 8m wooden skiff approaching the vessels starboard side at Lome Anchorage, Togo. It was followed minutes later by another skiff with 7 persons on board approaching from the port side and to within a few meters from the tankers midship. A rope was seen to be thrown from the skiff over the deck railings. The on watch crew shouted at the men in the skiff and immediately alerted the embarked Togolese naval personnel. Upon seeing the alerted crew and naval personnel the skiff immediately aborted the boarding attempt and moved away. The vessel and crew are reported to be safe.
14. Nigerian Government still refuses to allow the deployment of armed security guards on board vessels transiting Gulf of Guinea and IMO has not still approved and declared Gulf of Guinea as High Risk Area for Mariners. Protection against piracy at the present time is being given to transiting vessels upon request and after direct payment to Nigerian/Benin/Togolese Navy .Only a PMSC coordinator unarmed is allowed to join the vessel together with the local Navy’s personnel.
15. Although the role of MTISC-GoG (Maritime Trade Information Centre-Gulf of Guinea) which was established in 2015 at Accra in Ghana was crucial and quite susscefull to provide the regional principle point of contact to mariners off the coast of West Africa, it has been decided unexpectedly by the participating countries to cease operations on June the 20th 2016. The MTISC-GOG has closed, but its mission and its network will probably survive by the supporting FR-UK cooperation and reinforcing its insertion into the Yaoundé process. For the moment, there is no regional center to gather intelligence or share information for piracy incidents and to coordinate/prioritize/deconflict the movement of Naval/Law Enforcement Forces from the littoral states against pirates.
16. Nigerian pirates are usually very violent and aggressive and in fact look like that they do not care for human lives. Most of them are members of the local Islamic terrorist group of Boco Haram which it is linked to Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
17. Volume of piracy operations in South –East Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia) remained quite high from January to July 2016. The majority of pirate attacks/robberies in this region continued to occur against smaller size ships at anchorage or while underway with low speed and low free board transiting the Malacca Straits or the Sulu Sea. Valuables, ship stores or fuel oil (bunkers) remained the common target for the pirates who are basically common thieves.
18. On 27 July 2016 the Indonesian Foreign Ministry Spokesman announced the tripartite initiative launched by the Indonesian, Philippine and Malaysian Government in order to combat piracy and sea terrorism brought in the region by the Abu Sayyaf militants and the co-operated local criminals. The three countries will soon lead to an agreement how to formulate Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for joint naval patrols and for the private companies which would have the right to post on board vessels sea marshals in accordance with IMO regulations and procedures.
19. It is assessed that ,by the end of January 2017, IMO and the above mentioned countries will have completed all legal preparations to allow the deployment of armed security guards along with floating armories which will be used for the storage of weapons and security equipment of PMSCs.
20. On 1 January 2016 it has been reported that a Singapore flagged bulk carrier was robbed in Tianjin Outer Anchored. The robbers boarded unnoticed. It was first discovered at 1600 LT when the watchman found that the Diesel Oil Storage Tank Port manhole cover nuts had been removed. The bridge was immediately informed of the incident and the crew was mustered and conducted an investigation immediately. On investigation it was discovered that 39 metric tons of Low Sulphur Marine Gas Oil was stolen from the storage tank.
21. On 13 February 2016 it has been reported that an anchored product tanker was boarded by robbers at the Batangas Anchorage, Philippines. It was noticed by the C/O who was preparing the vessel for berthing that there were grappling hook marks on the deck. An immediate search was carried out and it has been reported that ships properties were stolen. Local authorities were informed through the vessel agents.
22. On 4 March 2016 it has been reported that Pirates have hijacked three fishing boats along with 25 fishermen. It has been suggested that the Pirates came from Sundarbans and are demanding a ransom of 100,000 Taka for each fisherman.
23. On 21 March 2016 it has been reported that robbers managed to board a bulk carrier whilst anchored at Jakarta Anchorage, Indonesia. The on duty Seaman carrying our routine rounds was attacked by five robbers. One robber remained with him as the other four robbers entered the accommodation block. The Seaman managed to report to the Bridge via his handheld radio. The Bridge team raised the alarm and mustered the crew. Upon hearing the alarm the robbers escaped with ship’s property from the engine room.
24. On 26 March 2016 it has been reported that a tugboat was hijacked by Abu Sayyaf militants whilst underway to Manilia from Jakarta. The militants abducted ten crew members all are reported as Indonesia nationals. Prior to abduction the crew managed to contact their employer to inform them of the hijacking, the tugboat was later recovered at Languyan Island. The Indonesian and Philippines authorities are investigating the incident and have reported that a ransom demand has been made for the release of the hostages.
25. On 1 April 2016 it has been reported that eight armed pirates in a speed boat approached and boarded a tug underway. They opened fire, stole crew personal belongings, and kidnapped four crew members. The remaining crews sailed the vessel to a safe port after the pirates escaped.
26. On 1 April 2016 Chittagong anchorage, Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh Robbers boarded and took control of a fishing vessel and took 10 fishermen hostage, a nearby Bangladesh Navy vessel patrolling in the Bay of Bengal was notified of the incident and proceeded to the location. The robbers demanded a ransom for the release of the hostages, within an hour the Navy managed to rescue all the 10 fishermen and detain the six robbers.
27. On 4 May 2016 it has been reported that robbers boarded a bulk carrier whilst anchored in Samarinda Anchorage, Indonesia. An alarm was raised resulting in the robbers escaping with ship’s property.
28. On 16 June 2016 the Master of a Vehicle Carrier has reported whilst underway to Townsville Australia he received a call on VHF 16 from two suspicious boats approaching at high speed. They instructed him to stop, the Master immediately raised the alarm and increased speed, upon seeing these actions taken the suspicious vessel called again identifying themselves to be Navy boats and threatened to attack if he did not stop. The suspicious boats continued to chase the vessel for a further 20 minutes before ceasing their approach and moving away. Descriptions of the suspicious vessels have not been given but the Master of the reporting vessel has confirmed each of the boats has a number of persons on board.
29. On 22 June 2016 a report has been received that a cargo vessel on transit to Indonesia has been boarded by armed men alleged to be members of Abu Sayyaf. They are reported to have fired at the vessel in order to board. The attackers abducted seven crew members and escaped heading towards Tawi- Tawi in the Philippines. Reports also state that a ransom has been demanded.
30. The reported piracy activity in South and Central America and the Caribbean waters from January to July 2016 included several incidents of robbery while ships/yachts/fishing boats were underway/ drifting or at anchorage in ports/bays of St Vincent & Grenadines, Colombia, Suriname, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and Haiti.
31. On 4 March 2016, Media reports are stating that a yacht was boarded by two armed men whilst anchored in Wallilabou Bay, St Vincent & Grenadines. Once on board the attackers killed a crew member and injured the Captain. The coastguard arrived to assist but the attackers had already escaped.
32. On 24 March 2016, a report has been issued stating that two masked robbers boarded an anchored vehicle carrier as it was preparing to berth at Callao Anchorage, Peru. A duty Seaman on routine rounds discovered the robbers near the forecastle store and reported to the OOW. The Master mustered the crew. Upon seeing the alerted crew the robbers jumped overboard with ships stores. The crew informed the Master that the robbers were wearing uniforms similar to the shore watchman. The incident was reported to the Harbour Master.
33. On 12 April 2016, it has been reported that three robbers armed with guns and a knife managed to board a bulk carrier whilst anchored in Buenaventura Anchorage, Colombia. An on duty Seaman carrying out his routine round spotted the robbers on the forecastle deck and informed the Officer of watch. The alarm was raised and the crew was mustered. The robbers escaped with the forward life raft and three lifebuoys.
34. On 22 April 2016, it has been reported that two robbers managed to board an anchored product tanker in Callao Anchorage, Peru. The first robber boarded the vessel and was breaking the lock of Forecastle store whilst the second robber was climbing via the Anchor chain. The robbers where noticed when an on duty watchman was carrying out his routine rounds Officer of Watch was then informed. The fog horn was sounded and the alarm was raised. The robbers immediately escaped via the anchor cable. Nothing was reported to be stolen.
35. On 12 May 2016, it has been reported that a robbery occurred on a LPG tanker whilst anchored in Port Jose Anchorage, Barcelona, Venezuela. On duty crew members noticed four robbers, who were armed with steel pipes, on-board the tanker and raised the alarm. Upon hearing the alarm the robbers escaped with ship’s stores.
36. On 27 May 2016, multiple media sites have reported that a Guyana-flagged fishing vessel was attacked by 5 armed men in Lower Shell area, Nickerie, Suriname. Resulting in one fisherman being killed and four others including the Captain being thrown overboard. The Captain was rescued by another fishing vessel and the body of the killed crew member was later found. The other three crew members have not been located. Local police have received word that three attacks took place that night. Five persons have been arrested by police as they were found on board a boat matching the description given by the rescued Captain.
37. On 25 June 2016, it has been reported that a robbers managed to board a product tanker whilst anchored in Mamonal Tanker anchorage, Colombia. The robbers boarded, stole ship’s items and then escaped unnoticed. The theft was discovered during routine rounds, upon further investigations the robbers had gained access via the hawse pipe. The Port control and Coastguard where informed of this incident.
38. Due to the turndown of the market for both shipping and maritime security, underwriters were finally forced to considerably decrease for their clients the insurance premiums for Third Part Liability, Personal Accident, Kidnap &Ransom and War Risk insurance contracts at a level of about 20%.
39. Cyber technology continues to remain as an identified growing menace for maritime business and as a power amplifier tool if used by pirates. The good news is that during the past six (6) months many PMSCs have started to offer Cyber Security seminars to Shipping Companies and the awareness is currently medium to high. All parties involved have indeed realized that soon have to produce counter measures and relevant practices sufficient to respond to any cyber threat or challenges.
40. Pirates have started to cooperate with Islamic terrorist groups as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, ISIS and Abu Sayyaf and perhaps we will soon see joint operations from them at sea.
41. Cruise/Passenger ships with Western Nationals on board calling ports of countries with recently upsurge conflicts (Turkey, Egypt) could be easily targeted by pirates or Islamic terrorist groups if not well safeguarded. IMO and Flag States for cruise ships should decide soon if armed Sea Marshalls can embark Cruise Ships during the entire voyage.
42. The total reports for piracy and armed robbery incidents in the first quarter of 2016 are recorded as 37 down from 54 in the same period last year. Two vessels in Gulf of Guinea and one in Philippines were hijacked and 29 boarded in all worlds’ seas theater of operations, with 26 mariners kidnapped for ransom and a further 28 held hostage. Although no pirate hijackings have been recorded off Somalia, suspected Somali pirates continue to hold in ports of Eyl and Haradeere 29 crew members for ransom.
43. Concluding, although piracy figures continue to fall day by day on the world’s seas operational theater, piracy will remain in 2016/17 as a threat and major concern for the world community including insurance agencies, underwriters, charterers, crews, ship owners and PMSCs in East/West Africa, South East Asia and South America. Geopolitical tensions ,local conflicts and political instability as continued to exist in Syria and Yemen and currently happened in Turkey perhaps will generate new unexpected areas/targets for piracy threat or large scale criminal activity at sea.