Philippines: Abducted Crewman Escapes   1 comment

piracyfile photo: Philippine bancas

By MarEx 

ReCAAP has reported that one of the crew of the abducted fishing vessel Ramona 2 has escaped after five months of captivity.

The four-man crew were abducted off Sulu in the Philippines on December 20, 2016. One was beheaded on April 13. The remaining two crewmen are believed to still be held by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants.

ReCAAP also reports a case of armed robbery in the area last week. M/Tug 308 was underway when 20 pirates carrying short firearms on board five bancas (fishing boats) approached and boarded the tug. They stole several gallons of fuel, paint and half sack of rice. The crew were unharmed and reported the incident to the Philippine Coast Guard. While the Coast Guard was assisting, another boat with unarmed pirates boarded the tug from the other side of the vessel and were apprehended.

Six piracy incidents against ships were reported in Asia in May. Notably, there was no incidents involving the abduction of crew from ships while underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and waters off Eastern Sabah.

There were 29 incidents reported during January-May 2017, 23 actual incidents and six attempted incidents. This was the lowest for the period in the last five years and a 31 percent decrease on 2016. ReCAAP attributes this the drop is largely due to the improvement in the situation at ports and anchorages in India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Conversely, the number of attempted incidents reported during January-May 2017 increased compared to January-May of 2015 and 2016. Of the six attempted incidents, four were incidents involving ships underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea.

Posted June 20, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

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Posted June 7, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

ASEAN Neighbors Ramp Up Terrorism Response   1 comment

Philippine navyfile photo

By Noel Tarrazona

Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia are slated to meet on June 19 to finalize the deployment of joint naval patrols as the region prepares for increasing terrorist activity.

The collaboration of the ASEAN tripartite states comes after worsening armed conflict between Philippine soldiers and 300 to 500 ISIS-inspired militants from groups in Marawi City, Mindanao in the Southern Philippines.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein spoke at a security summit in Singapore warning the war could overflow into the maritime environment. Hussein said the patrols will be backed up with air surveillance patrols to effectively locate the heavily armed pirates who have been victimizing sailors in their kidnap-for-ransom and terror activities.

The East ASEAN region, particularly the waters of Mindanao, has seen an increase in armed piracy with the recent abduction of several Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese sailors.

According to Asian media, the Abu Sayyaf group, who is often suspected to have masterminded these maritime attacks, has made $12 million from kidnap-for-ransom activities since 2012. The frequency of the attacks has caused the Sulu Straits to be referred to as the “Somalia” of Southeast Asia.

Shipowners have been pressuring their respective governments to address the issue, and Hishammuddin said the three countries have initiated the joint patrol “to avoid being accused of doing nothing.” He said that Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore conducted joint patrols in the in the Malacca Strait, and he wanted a similar initiative to be replicated in the Sulu Straits.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly announced that Southeast Asian militants who joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria will likely be defeated in Syria as a result of U.S.-led air strikes. Once ISIS loses territory there, militants from the Middle East could look to Mindanao as their next base.

According to Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, 1,200 Islamic State operatives including 40 Indonesians are now present in the Philippines. Ryacudu described the militants as killing machines and has proposed full-scale regional cooperation to contain the threat.

The security patrols were recommended because of the proximity of Mindanao to Malaysia and Indonesia. One can move to any of these countries in less than 24 hours by sea, making the area conducive to the establishment of terror cell networks in the region.

There are three major armed major militants operating in the Philippines who recently pledged allegiance to ISIS. They are the Abu Sayyaf Group, Ansar Khalifa and the Maute Group, the Lanao-based miltant group who is presently battling soldiers in Marawi in the Philippines.

The ongoing Marawi armed conflict has seen 120 terrorists, 36 soldiers and 19 civilians killed. While there are 3,000 residents trapped in the crossfire, more than 100,000 residents have fled out of Marawi to seek refuge in nearby cities and municipalities.

Maritime Analyst Catherine Zara Raymond in her study Maritime Terrorism in Southeast Asia: A Risk Assessment, forewarned in 2007 that “there are inherent weaknesses present in the maritime transport industry.” It also finds that there are terrorist groups in the region with maritime capabilities who possess the motives to target Western and economic interests.

The study also argued that maritime terrorism is a threat to commercial ports and shipping, and the extent of the threat from maritime terrorism is increasing in Southeast Asia.

Thus, while ASEAN has become the world’s third largest economy behind China and India and one of the fastest growing region’s in the world in terms of GDP, the region also faces struggles with growing maritime terrorism that threatens the region’s maritime industry.

The Southern Philippines is presently under the state of Martial Law to allow military powers suppress terrorists, but lawmaker Tom Villarin is expected to challenge the Martial Law declaration in the higher court saying that Martial Law has only achieved what the extremists want – that is to create a climate of fear.

Posted June 5, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

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Posted June 2, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Somali Pirates Hijack Iranian Fishing Vessel   1 comment

fileHijacked dhow (file image)

By MarEx 

On Tuesday, Somali pirates captured an Iranian fishing boat for use as a mother ship for attacks on larger merchant vessels, according to the mayor of a port town in Puntland. In the past, Somali pirates often captured fishing vessels and their crews in order to extend their range, and they successfully operated as far out as the west coast of India.

Ali Shire, the top official in the town of Haabo, northern Puntland, informed Reuters of the hijacking. “The Iranian fishing vessel does not have a license [to fish] in Puntland,” he said. Somali pirates frequently cite illegal, unlicensed and unregulated fishing by foreign vessels as a source of grievance.

Iranian state media did not provide additional information on the attacks, but noted that the Iranian Navy has patrolled the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 in order to provide security for the nation’s merchant shipping. In April, the Iranian frigate Sabalan and the logistics vessel Lavan took over the patrol route from the destroyer Naqdi and the fleet auxiliary Tonb.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been on an upswing in recent months after a five-year lull, motivated by famine and poverty and enabled by reductions in maritime security expenditures. Many of the recent incidents have affected smaller vessels on Somali itineraries, but attacks on international shipping (like the hijackings of the OS 35 and the Aris 13) show that the pirates have retained the ability to strike far from the Somali coast.

Posted May 26, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Has Somali Piracy Returned?   1 comment

map
Recent piracy incidents (one additional hijacking off Puntland not shown)

By Lisa Otto

Since the hijacking of an oil tanker off the coast of Alula, Puntland on March 13 and its release without ransom three days later, the media has voiced concerns as to whether Somali piracy maybe about to resurge. This recent incident and those that have followed it provide an opportunity to look back at Somali piracy: what caused it in the first place? What caused it to abate and where we are now?

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre’s website indicates that, at the time of writing, three vessels have been hijacked since the beginning of the year, while another has been boarded and one other fired upon. These incidents have all taken place within the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast, per the image generated from the Bureau’s live piracy map (above).

Aside from the attack on March 13, a dhow was hijacked off the coast of Eyl, Puntland on March 23 with 20 crew members being taken hostage. Thirteen were released in a skiff while the remainder of the crew was released on March 26. It appears no ransom was paid, but the pirates made off with food and diesel. On April 1, a third hijacking took place off Bosaso, also in Puntland area, where 13 crew members were hijacked within Somali territorial waters. Somali forces managed to free the crew and escorted the vessel to its next port of call. On April 8, a tanker was boarded from a skiff in the Gulf of Aden. The crew retreated to the citadel and when local authorities arrived the following day the pirates were gone. On April 14, a tanker came under fire off the eastern coast of Yemen and, the next day, another tanker was fire at in the Gulf of Aden just south of the central Yemeni coastline. On April 22, an attempted attack was made on a tanker in Somali waters, with the tanker being chased for two hours. A warship came the vessel’s assistance following a distress call. One crew member was reported as injured.

The news reports of these attacks have been startling because there has not been a successful attack in the region by pirates for more than four years. The lack of attacks in the region has made it difficult for international forces to justify continued naval deployments in the Gulf of Aden. While this will be borne out by the official figures reported by the International Maritime Organisation and the International Maritime Bureau, it does not take into consideration the attacks perpetrated against regional shipping, which suggest that Somali piracy is not resurging – it never went away in the first place.

Why would this be the case? The answer is that the conditions that led to the rise of piracy in 2008 have not changed significantly enough for Somalis to halt their attacks on merchant vessels. In addition, the criminal organizations that have perpetrated piracy are still present. Furthermore, the Somali government is unable to assist because of poverty and the lack of economic development. These are persistent challenges for the democratic government elected in 2012, which is still challenged by drought and famine. Importantly, fishing, which is the traditional livelihood of many Somalis, remains threatened by illegal fishing in the nation’s territorial waters.

The media also suggest that commerical shipping has relaxed its preventive measures, including maintaining higher speeds while transiting these waters and employing armed guards to protect their ships. Unfortunately, these methods are not always used because they negatively impact profit margins. There are now fewer naval deployments in the Gulf of Aden because these are expensive as well.

As a recent article in the Economist pointed out: “A lack of international [rather than local] victims had made it easy for the world’s attention to move elsewhere. But until piracy ceases to be an attractive business opportunity it will remain a plague.”

While there has been a decrease in the numbers of pirate incidents in the region, vessel operators still need to use precautionary measures for the safety of their crew and safe passage through the region. The international community needs to focus on the improvement of socio-economic conditions in Somalia, which will improve the lives of the Somali people. It is also vitally important to address illegal fishing and ensure that local authorities will prosecute those people caught.  Vessels must also continue to implement Best Management Practice (BMP4) for preventive and evasive measures during transit in Somali piracy waters.

Dr. Lisa Otto is a research associate at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR).To learn more about CTPSR’s research on maritime security, please contact the author at lisa.otto@coventry.ac.uk.

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

Posted May 26, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Keeping Children Out of Piracy   1 comment

boat

By MarEx 

A first step has been taken to raise awareness of the horrific abuse of children in piracy with the release of a handbook for the maritime security sector.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative began academic research, in collaboration with Human Rights at Sea, the Dalhousie University Marine Piracy Project and the 100 Series Rules, in 2011. Following on from that, in 2016, Darin Reeves, Director of Training for the Dallaire Initiative, led their creation of Children Affected by Maritime Piracy: A Handbook for Maritime Security Sector Actors.

On behalf of the Dallaire Initiative, Darin explains how children are involved, how their recruitment is intertwined with terrorism and how adults confronting them can suffer the consequences.

What is the scale of children’s involvement in piracy?

Currently there is very little objective evidence, in large part due to a lack of reporting and research. It is much the same when it comes to estimating the number of child soldiers around the world.

However, based on evidence from pirates detained off the coast of Somalia, a large number of those directly engaged in piracy are under the age of 18. In fact, it is estimated that in 2014 up to 20 percent of all maritime pirates apprehended off the coast of East Africa were under the age of 18.

Within the Handbook, we quoted Rajat Pandit at The Times of India:

“In 2011, the Indian Navy announced that 25 of 61 recently arrested pirates were under the age of 15, with four of them estimated to be just 11 years old, while reports from the area consistently tell of an increased use of children to commit acts of piracy as older, established pirates remained ashore while recruiting and sending children out to sea to continue attacking ships and their crews.”

We also quoted the 6719th meeting of the U.N. Security Council, held on 22 February 2012, where it was reported:

“The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict has reported a trend showing increased use of children recruited to seize ships for ransom, and that former child soldiers were noted to move from Islamist extremist groups to become pirates. This trend was underscored in a report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in 2012, citing strong evidence of cooperation between Al-Shabaab terrorists and pirates.”

How is terrorism intertwined with piracy?

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted strong evidence of a link between Al-Shabaab rebels and maritime pirates in a 2012 report to the U.N. Security Council. This symbiotic relationship is not one of mutual support, rather it reflects in part the desire by both parties to use a common “resource” – children – to take part in their activities.

The fact that maritime piracy in a particular area may ebb and flow is of no surprise; what surprised us through our research is the link between this activity and the resurgence of armed conflict ashore.

For example, following the armed entry by Kenya into Somalia in 2011 to attack Al-Shabaab strongholds, the rate of maritime piracy attacks – and the attendant use of children – decreased. Subsequent and recent attacks by African and American forces against Al-Shabaab weakened its position, and a rise in maritime piracy was noted.

It is therefore likely that as such armed groups ashore who use children as soldiers are reduced, the community of maritime pirates seizes the opportunity to recruit and use these very same children – in some cases further abusing those youths who have only just been disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated back to their families, communities and societies.

How is a “child” defined, especially in cultures where children often work at ages typically younger than Western cultures?

This is a question that defies universal acceptance. As a result, in writing the Handbook I adapted the Paris Principles and Guidelines definition of Child Soldiers to all “Child[ren] Associated with Maritime Piracy as:

“any person below 18 years of age who is or has been recruited or used by a maritime armed group or criminal organization in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as sailors, fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities.”

Beyond actively participating in hijackings, a child may assist adult confederates in various auxiliary capacities. For example, Andrew Mwangura, director of the Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, has noted that young Somali girls are often hired by pirates to cook, clean and guard hostages.

In April 2011, Spiegel International published a story that aptly illustrates the reality of child recruitment, when it wrote on the recruitment of Abdiwali, a Somali child pirate who was apprehended during the liberation of the MV Taipan and subsequently put on trial in Germany.

Abdiwali said that he had to begin fending for himself at the age of 10. At 13, he worked as a fisherman and piloted a small motorboat, where he was paid $2-3 a day. He learned to drive a fishing boat. They would spend weeks at sea and when they returned, his wages were barely enough to survive for the next week.

One day, a man offered him $500 for a better job. It wasn’t until he was on board the dhow that they told him that a ship [the MV Taipan] was to be hijacked. Hunger and poverty, he said, had motivated him to commit this crime and he never asked himself whether he wanted to be a part of it. It had all seemed self-evident to him.

Why are children chosen over adults?

A number of experts in the world of private maritime security agree that children are frequently employed as interlocutors during ransom negotiations because they are widely perceived as being irrational and unpredictable. Somali pirates have discovered that insurance companies and hostages’ family members can be frightened into paying a higher ransom if a child acts as the pirates’ primary negotiator.

Adult pirates often claim not to know that it is illegal to employ children. They would like to increase the size of their piracy force so they can assume control over more piracy vessels or improve their ability to attack target vessels. Children are viewed as being obedient and easily manipulated and are therefore seen as posing less of a potential threat to piracy commanders.

Children are agile and effective at scaling small or light ladders and can get into tighter spaces than adults. Children are perceived as naive and brave, thus willing to take risks without contemplating the consequences. Children are considered cheap, expendable and easily found in large numbers.

Also, children require very limited training. Once they can handle a small boat, shoot and dismantle and clean a gun, they are ready to be employed on board piracy vessels.

Importantly, children pose a moral problem for mariners, as most professional sailors and maritime security sector actors will hesitate to shoot when faced with a child holding a gun.

Are some children particularly vulnerable?

There are many factors that can increase a child’s vulnerability to recruitment: being impoverishment; travelling unaccompanied; being an orphan; homelessness; living in an internally displaced persons or refugee camp; being female; being illiterate; having a relationship or friendship with someone who has joined a maritime piracy group; escaping from forced labour (e.g. fishing, mine, factory, field worker, etc.); belonging to a community that hosts a maritime piracy group; belonging to a persecuted ethnic or religious minority; being in conflict with the law; and being addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, and it is a cyclic thing. Children, raised and inculcated at an early age to the violence and depravity, enter a cycle of violence that only perpetuates conflict, both at sea and ashore.

What are the moral dilemmas for people involved in shipping or maritime security?

To borrow from a statement made by our founder General Roméo Dallaire, while speaking in the context of child soldiers: “Shock hits you as you realize this soldier is not a man or a professional – not your equal in age, strength, training, understanding. This soldier is a child, in the tattered remnants of a military uniform, with dozens more children behind him.”

Aside from the physical threat that child maritime pirates may present mariners and maritime security sector actors, facing them can also cause psychological harm in a number of ways.

One of the most likely sources of psychological harm is employing deadly force against children. There is a duality inherent in this situation: they are both a child, someone who is vulnerable, impressionable, frequently irrational and deserving of the utmost protection; and at the same time, they are also potentially violent, unpredictable individuals who can threaten the sailor, and they may view themselves more as an adult than a child.

When facing a child pirate, the mariner or maritime security sector actor may have to choose between defending their own life, their shipmate’s, their ship and sparing the life of a child. Such decisions are never easy to make, especially when under the time pressures of a potentially deadly engagement.

This can lead to what is termed a “moral injury” – when one perpetrates an act against another person that breaks with one’s sense of morals. This could, for instance, occur if a mariner or maritime security sector actor shoots and kills a child pirate or, shocked by the situation, fails to react appropriately and others are harmed as a consequence.

The symptoms of moral injuries may include shame or guilt for the act, flashbacks to the act and difficulties sleeping or concentrating.

Psychological harm can also be caused by witnessing or being subjected to traumatic events, such as being threatened with death or having a colleague killed. These may result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other operational stress injuries, which also exhibits symptoms of flashbacks, concentration and sleep difficulties and hyper-arousal.

Even if symptoms do not lead to a clinical diagnosis of PTSD, traumatic events can also lead to depression, alcohol use, relationship problems aggression, or other mental health challenges.

How these types of operational stress may impact security sector actors facing child maritime pirates has not been specifically researched.

In order to better prepare mariners and maritime security sector actors for the moral and psychological dilemmas associated with engaging children associated with maritime piracy, improved effort must also be made to create a reporting system. Incident reports from sea should be effectively analyzed and the results fed back into the training cycle.

Finally, all mariners and maritime security sector actors who have faced children associated with maritime piracy should be offered quality post-incident counselling to help mitigate any ensuing negative psychological effects.

What do you hope to achieve with the Handbook and your involvement with the Dallaire Initiative?

Our goal, as with child soldiers, is to end their recruitment and use by proactively educating and training those who face this phenomenon most directly and most commonly. We aim to reduce the perceived advantage of using children in this role, and increase public awareness and abhorrence for such a practice.

If there are no advantages to using children, leaving only their disadvantages, such as being weaker, less resilient, easier to distract and less capable of advanced training, and leaving those responsible for their recruitment and use subject to increased legal sanction, then we will begin to stop their use all together.

What successes have you had so far?

We have succeeded in helping to raise awareness of children associated with maritime piracy and their special needs, which has in part seen the establishment of special processes for captured and detained child pirates. We have also succeeded in engaging civilian mariner organizations as well as state naval forces who are interested in training their personnel on how to better deal with children associated with maritime piracy.

How does the Handbook fit with the 100 Series Rules of Force?

Much like the Handbook, the 100 Series Rules of Force was the first of its kind to provide the international maritime community with a model set of rules to govern the use of force in self defence. While Rules of Engagement are a well-known military idea, setting out the circumstances for military, including naval forces to lawfully use force in order to achieve their mission, prior to the 100 Series no such guidance or benchmark was available within the civilian sphere.

With these rules however, private maritime security companies now have guidance that incorporates international law and internationally generally accepted legal recommendations regarding the use of force in situations where the concept of self defence is engaged.

When combined with the guidance found within the Handbook, which itself also seeks to proactively educate and train civilian mariners and marine security sector actors, members of the maritime industry are better equipped to deal with this phenomena.

How do you view Human Rights at Sea?

Human Rights at Sea is a cutting-edge organization helping to shine a light on the previously ignored, misunderstood or simply suppressed issue of human rights beyond borders – on the high seas. In many ways, mariners are more vulnerable than those who remain ashore, as once at sea it is only the “law of the flag” that will apply – including that state’s human rights legislation. Moreover, even the flag state human rights legislation is often scant protection, as there is frequently no investigative or enforcement mechanism on board a merchant vessel to protect the sailor.

Human Rights at Sea is therefore filling a much needed and valuable role, protecting sailors who are otherwise without protection and raising awareness of issues that have previously gone unreported, unacknowledged and unaddressed by the international community. It has been a great pleasure working with David Hammond and Human Rights at Sea, and this is a partnership that we look forward to maintaining for many years to come.

The issue of maritime piracy can be found wherever ships are at sea, and as one of the first crimes recognized under international law for enforcement and prosecution by individual states, it remains in a class of its own. Likewise the associated abuse of using children to engage in this criminal activity. By working collaboratively with Human Rights at Sea and other like-minded organizations, the Dallaire Initiative will continue to shine a light on this abuse and work towards the day when children used as maritime pirates is a thing of the past.

Thank-you Darin.

The Romeo Dallaire Initiative 

Posted May 20, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS