East Africa and the Indian Ocean
Somalia: Pirates hijack Iranian fishing boat 305 nm off coast 7 March
According to the industry newspaper Ships and Ports, pirates hijacked an Iranian fishing boat some 305 nm off the Somali coast while the vessel was transiting to Somalia, although the report remains unconfirmed. It is unclear whether the crew were abducted, although previous hijacks have resulted in pirates detaining crewmembers. At least three Iranian vessels and their crew were captured by Somali pirates in 2015, with two of these vessels still in captivity.
PVI Comment: According to the European Union's Naval Force, EUNAVFOR, coastline communities are hostile towards Iranian vessels as they are responsible for the majority of illegal fishing off Somalia. The distance offshore that the attack was committed, however, displays a higher degree of sophistication than much of the opportunistic, vigilante justice enacted by locals seeking to protect their waters from illegal fishing, suggesting that piracy networks may be responsible for the hijack.
Nigeria: Pirates attack oil tanker, abduct five sailors off Brass 5 March
A group of pirates reportedly attacked a Panama-flagged oil tanker at around 1530 hrs local time as the vessel was in transit roughly 29 nm southeast of Brass in the Gulf of Guinea. Five crew members were abducted and their current whereabouts are unknown.
PVI Comment: The incident marks the latest in an increase in reported abductions targeting vessels in the Gulf of Guinea since January, as pirates continue to favour kidnap for ransom over oil theft as a funding method. President Muhammadu Buhari's crackdown on illegal oil operations onshore and the low price of crude has made stolen oil more difficult to sell on and lowered the net profits associated with this form of piracy.
Select Maritime News
Brazil: Government to privatise six ports 3 March
The government has announced plans to privatise six of its port areas to attract investment and development funds, according to the Secretariat of Ports. The port areas to be privatised are three grain terminals at the port of Outeiro in Belem, one terminal at Vila do Conde, and one grain terminal and one fertilizer terminal at Santarem. The lease tenders for the six terminals will be opened on 31 March 2016. Brazil is looking to privatise around 20 more port terminals, which will be announced once the plans are finalised. Brazil's ongoing Petrobras corruption scandal, alleged economic mismanagement and low oil and commodity prices have severely weakened government revenue.
China: Washington, New Delhi, Tokyo to conduct joint naval exercises in Philippine Sea 3 March
Japan, the US, and India will conduct joint naval exercises in the northern waters of the Philippine Sea, as part of the annual manoeuvres between the US and Indian navies. The exercises, termed Malabar, will be conducted close to the East and South China Seas, although the exact date was not disclosed. China is embroiled in many territorial disputes in the South China Sea, with the US warning against Beijing's growing militarisation of the disputed islands in the sea.
Egypt: Normal operations resume at Alexandria, Dekheila ports following disruptive weather 3 March
Officials said normal operations had resumed at the northern ports of Alexandria and Dekheila following several days of bad weather. Authorities said high winds and rough seas had left 40 vessels stranded at the outer anchorage prior to the resumption of operations.
France: London to help boost Calais security 25 February
Harlem Desir, French minister for European affairs, said that the UK will contribute around USD 22 mn in extra funding to help improve security around the port of Calais. Thousands of migrants are camped in Calais hoping to reach the UK. Sporadic attempts by migrants to gain access to the ferry and Eurotunnel terminals have disrupted services at Calais in recent months. The extra funds will be used to secure the terminal area and to tackle trafficking networks.
Greece: NATO expands Aegean mission against smugglers 6 March
NATO announced the expansion of its mission in the Aegean Sea aimed at halting the smuggling of migrants into Europe. The organisation will send additional vessels to the area to conduct reconnaissance and assist the Greek and Turkish coast guards and the EU border agency Frontex. On 4 March, the International Office for Migration estimated that 125,819 migrants had reached the Greek islands across the Aegean since 1 January.
Iran: Frontline says oil shipping insurance issues will take months to solve 1 March
Frontline, one of the largest independent tanker firms in the world, says securing insurance for cargoes carrying oil from Iran is likely to take another two to three months. Once the insurance issue is solved, Tehran will be able to rely on international shipping to a greater extent. Iranian tankers are currently holding unsold oil at ports and will continue to do so due to a lack of land storage facilities. The country is aiming to rapidly increase oil exports since international sanctions were lifted in January.
Kenya: Authorities announce completion of phase one of Mombasa Port expansion 1 March
The Deputy Project Manager of the Mombasa Port Development Project announced that phase one of the project was completed, increasing port capacity by 50 percent with three new berths. The construction of the berths is now complete and ready to be handed over to the government. The second and third phases of the port development are due to be completed in 2017 and 2020 respectively and are expected to make Mombasa port the largest in the region.
Madagascar: Government ends controversial export fees 2 March
Madagascar has scrapped its Advanced Cargo Declaration regulations, which imposed a USD 100 fee on the export of shipping containers after miners stated it was harming mining projects amid low commodity prices. The move comes after Ambatovy mining project, Madagascar's biggest foreign direct investment, stated the regulations would force them to cease operations. The mineral-rich country has struggled to attract foreign direct investment in recent years, in part due its excessive bureaucracy.
Nigeria: Shippers' association protests proposed oil cargo handling monopoly 2 March
The director for commercial shipping services at the Nigeria Shippers' Council has protested the government's proposal to unintentionally grant a monopoly to Intels Nigeria Ltd. over the handling of oil and gas cargo. According to the association director, the classification of certain cargo as 'oil and gas' introduces ambiguity to the government contract with Intels, which could lead to monopolistic behaviour whereby Intels handles all cargo related to the oil and gas industry. Intels is the only firm in Nigeria to be fully granted the Integrated Management System (IMS) certification for corporate health and quality assurance, and is considered by unions and the government as the leading logistics provider.
North Korea: Pyongyang fires missiles into eastern sea after new UN sanctions 3 March
North Korea fired six short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan from its eastern coast city of Wonsan. The missiles were fired at 1000 hrs local time, hours after the UN Security Council formally adopted new sanctions on Pyongyang after its nuclear test and long-range missile launch in 2016. It remains unclear whether the international community will take any further action following the show of force. The new sanctions ban all exports to North Korea of coal, iron, gold and aviation fuel, which could be used for its missile programme, and requires every UN member state to inspect all cargo to and from North Korea.
Oman: Australian vessel seizes weapons haul in Arabian Sea 5 March
According to Australian media, the HMAS Darwin intercepted a fishing vessel travelling towards Somalia and seized almost 2,000 assault rifles, 100 RGP launchers, 49 machine guns and mortar tubes around 161 nm off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea. The source of the weapons was not immediately clear. The vessel is stationed in the sea as part of a multinational effort to counter terrorism, narcotics and piracy in the region.
Pakistan: Islamabad frees 86 Indian fishermen from Landhi jail near Karachi 6 March
Pakistan has released 86 Indian fishermen, accused of violating its territorial waters, in a gesture of goodwill. The fishermen, arrested more than five months ago, were released from Landhi jail near Karachi and will be sent to India through Wagah Border on 7 March, local media reported. The maritime border between India and Pakistan is poorly defined and fishermen from both countries are often arrested on charges of incursion.
Panama: Canal expansion enters trial phase 1 March
GUPC, the consortium building the new Panama Canal locks said that, over the next two months, it would conduct more than 2,000 trials in the Pacific and Caribbean sectors of the expanded waterway. The trials will focus on gates, valves, electric power and control systems. Navigation tests will then take place during the second week of May, before the project is handed over to the Panama Canal Authority, which expects to open the waterway for operations during the second half of 2016. The expansion of the canal will allow the transit of 2.6 times more cargo.
Philippines: Port workers begin week-long protest in Manila 7 March
Port workers belonging to the Aduana Business Club began a week-long protest in Manila to oppose the Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS), which customs authorities are implementing on 15 March. The workers will protest in front of the Philippine Ports Authority's main office, and have vowed to paralyse Manila's port operations. Authorities have begun negotiations to address the grievances. TABS is a system that allows brokers and traders a choice of time-slots for the delivery and withdrawal of shipments to ease cargo flow.
Philippines: Coast guard bars Pyongyang vessel from leaving Subic Bay port 4 March
The Philippine Coast Guard barred a North Korean cargo vessel from leaving Subic Bay port until a security and safety inspection was conducted. The move was in line with the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on 2 March, which require all vessels travelling to and from North Korea to be searched for illicit cargo. Nothing suspicious was found on the ship, though it could not leave the port until it addressed a number of firefighting and electrical equipment issues.
South Korea: Seoul plans new independent sanctions on Pyongyang 7 March
South Korea will unveil new independent sanctions against North Korea in the coming days, in addition to the fresh UN sanctions adopted on 2 March. Seoul's own sanctions will reportedly include a ban on third-country-flagged vessels which make a stay in North Korea, as well as a freeze on the trilateral Rajin-Khasan port transportation project with Russia. Tensions on the peninsula have escalated since Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test in January and a long-range missile launch in February.
Sri Lanka: Navy arrests eight Indian fishermen along Palk Strait 3 March
The Sri Lankan navy arrested eight Indian fishermen who were allegedly operating illegally in the island’s waters northwest of Kovilan Point in Karainagar. Authorities claimed that the fishermen had crossed the International Maritime Boundary Line, which demarcates the territorial waters of India and Sri Lanka. Such instances are fairly common: the fishermen mostly belong to the state of Tamil Nadu and claim that Tamils have historically fished in waters close to the maritime boundary.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines: Gunmen kill one aboard yacht in Wallilabou Bay 4 March
Two masked gunmen boarded a German-owned yacht in Wallilabou Bay at 0135 hrs local time. The gunmen killed one person on board the vessel and injured one other. The coast guard responded 20 minutes after the attack and flew the victim to Martinique for treatment. The gunmen escaped and no items were reported stolen.
Tunisia: Security forces break up protest at Sfax port 1 March
Police intervened to break up a sit-in protest observed by fishermen, sailors and others at the port of Sfax since 25 February. Local media reported that at least 10 protesters were arrested by security forces. The extent of disruption to port operations from the demonstration remained unclear. The action was prompted by the alleged mistreatment of maritime workers.
Source: Protection Vessels International
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