Tug Crewmember Repels Pirates with Flare Gun   Leave a comment

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Abu Sayyaf members in an undated video still (file image)

BY MAREX 

On Wednesday, the crew of an Indonesian tugboat successfully repelled four armed attackers near Pegasus Reef, located in the piracy-prone waters off Sabah, Malaysia.

According to local media, a speedboat with four men aboard approached the tugboat Magtrans II on Wednesay evening. The boat’s occupants opened fire as they neared, striking the master, Didy Saviady. The aggressors boarded and most of the crew retreated within the tug. According to local police, one crewmember on the third deck returned fire with flare guns, discharging about ten rounds and causing the attackers to abandon their attempt.

Police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah told Malaysian media that Saviady sustained a gunshot wound in the left thigh, and he was evacuated to a hospital in Lahad Datu.

The identity of the attackers is unknown. The majority of previous hijacking and kidnapping attempts in the Sulu-Celebes Sea region have been linked to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, which is based in the Sulu archipelago.

During the inquiry into the attack on the tug, police forces discovered a fishing boat drifting without any occupants, left with its engine running. The boat’s owner later reported that the four fishermen who normally operate it had gone missing. Commissioner Mammah said that it is not yet certain whether the fishermen were kidnapped, as no one has yet claimed responsibility for an abduction or demanded a ransom payment.

Separately, on the day of the attack on the tug, Abu Sayyaf militants freed an Indonesian fisherman who had been captured off Sabah in September. The victim, Usman Yusuf, 35, was released to authorities near Jolo, Sulu.

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Posted December 9, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

Pirates Attack LNG Carrier in Gulf of Guinea   Leave a comment

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BY MAREX 

On November 6, pirates pursued and fired on an unnamed LNG tanker in the Gulf of Guinea.

At about 0600 hours UTC, nine pirates in a speedboat approached the vessel at a position about 30 nm southwest of Bonny, Nigeria, an oil and gas production hub in the Niger River Delta. The attackers opened fire on the vessel and made several attempts to get close, but the master sped up and took evasive maneuvers. The pirates ultimately abandoned the attack and departed.

According to maritime security firm AKE, LNG carriers’ double-walled, insulated tanks are not vulnerable to small arms fire. The ICC IMB reports that the vessel and crew are safe.

Piracy is unfortunately common in the Gulf of Guinea, especially off the coast of the Niger River Delta. Kidnap-for-ransom is the most common type of attack, and according to Oceans Beyond Piracy, 100 seafarers were kidnapped in the waters off the Gulf of Guinea last year.

Last month, pirates abducted 11 crewmembers from the container ship Pomerania Sky as she was headed for the port of Onne, Nigeria. Those abducted included eight from Poland, two Filipinos and a Ukrainian. Nine crew members remained on board the vessel and brought her safely into port.

In September, pirates kidnapped 12 crewmembers from the Swiss bulk carrier Glarus in Nigerian waters. The vessel was carrying wheat between Lagos and Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta, and the attack happened about 45 nm southwest of Bonny Island. The pirates reportedly used long ladders and cut the razor wire on deck to gain access to the vessel.

Posted November 17, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

Pirates Repelled from Stena Bulk Vessel West of Yemen   Leave a comment

Stena Imperial crew
Stena Imperial crew

BY MAREX 

The crew of the Stena Imperial successfully thwarted a pirate attack on November 3 whilst northbound through the Red Sea west of Yemen.

The tanker was on her way from the Far East to Rotterdam when two suspicious skiffs approached from the port side at a distance of 1.5 nautical miles. The alarm was raised and the Master and the on board security team mustered on the bridge. Hand flares were fired towards the skiffs as warning shots as they were continuously approaching towards the vessel.

The Master broadcast a security message about the attempted attack and also contacted a close by warship. Both skiffs ceased approach after flares were fired from the vessel and passed by the stern. One of the skiffs which passed astern again tried to approach the vessel, and once again hand flares were fired. The skiff then slowed down and moved towards another vessel.

The threat of piracy off Somalia and Yemen increased last year after the Aris 13 hijacking in March. However, Erik Hånell, CEO Stena Bulk, says that on the whole the pirate situation in the Gulf of Aden has calmed down. “There have not been any hijackings for a long time. But when we sail off the coast of Yemen, we choose to use guards due to the lawless state prevailing in the country at the moment. This has created the same kind of desperation in the population as we saw in Somalia a number of years ago. But we are monitoring the situation closely via our security department, which also keeps an eye on the situation in general on the global level. For us, it is extremely important to take the measures that are required so that the crew feel safe and that we at the same time follow the local regulations.”

Stena Bulk chiefly employs professional security firms, and the team comprises of well-educated former soldiers. Normally there are three to four people in each team on board the ships passing through the high risk areas of Yemen and Nigeria. The team is not allowed to use its weapons unless the captain has approved. The guards always follow the captain’s orders, but in situations like this they of course provide their professional advice, on which the captain then bases his decisions, said Hånell.

“The crew onboard the Stena Imperial acted in a very professional manner during the incident and worked closely with the security team to resolve the situation as safe as possible. We put a very high value on our crew and always make sure that they are provided the proper training to be able to handle all sorts of situations in a calm and professional way. A well trained crew working together with a security company when transiting these areas also makes us as owners feel secure about their safety onboard,” he said.

Posted November 10, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

Dual Hijacking and Kidnapping Reported off Republic of Congo   Leave a comment

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File image

BY MAREX

On October 29, in an unusual double attack, pirates boarded and took command of the bunkering tanker Anuket Amber at a position 100 nm off Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo. The same day, the aggressors also boarded an OSV, took four hostages and transferred them to the Anuket Amber. 

According to an initial report published by the IMB ICC, a group of pirates in a speed boat chased and fired upon an LPG tanker that was carrying out underway ship-to-ship bunkering operations with the Anuket Amber. The two vessels stopped the bunkering transfer and cast off. The LPG carrier  increased her speed and the tanker made evasive maneuvers. The ICC’s report indicated that both vessels escaped and that all crew were safe.

However, on Thursday, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that pirates had abducted three Indonesian citizens and one Ukrainian national from a different vessel – the OSV Ark Tze – and transferred them to the Anuket Amber, which had been hijacked by the same group.

“The hijackers kidnapped four ship crewmembers (one Ukrainian citizen and three Indonesian citizens) and transferred them to the Panama-flagged tanker Anuket Amber, which was [also] controlled by the hijackers,” said the Director of Indonesian Citizen Protection and Legal Aid (PWNI) of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, in a statement Thursday.

As of Thursday evening, the Ark Tze was anchored at Pointe-Noire. Her 11 remaining crewmembers survived the attack, and nine – all Indonesian nationals – will be repatriated at their request.

Indonesian authorities are working with the Ark Tze’s owner to communicate with the hijackers and secure the release of the hostages. The families of the victims have been notified.

The location of the attack is several hundred miles south of West Africa’s piracy hotspot, the region just off the Niger River Delta. However, multiple acts of armed robbery have been reported in and around Pointe-Noire in recent months.

Posted November 6, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

Rise in Piracy, Rise in Crisis Care for Seafarers   Leave a comment

Captain Valentin Dudnik
Captain Valentin Dudnik

BY MAREX 

Sailors’ Society’s Crisis Response Network (CRN) provided support to its 100th case this week, with piracy, death at sea and abandonment accounting for almost two-thirds of those supported.

More than a quarter of seafarers seeking crisis response are affected by piracy, says the charity. The high level of piracy cases reflects the rise in piracy reported by the International Maritime Bureau for the first six months of this year, which saw 107 actual or attempted attacks, up from 87 in the same period of last year, with Nigeria and Indonesia the main piracy hotspots.

Just this week, 11 seafarers were seized by pirates off the coast of Nigeria. The charity has reached out to the shipping company to offer support.

Sailors’ Society, based in Southampton, set up its 24/7 rapid response team in South Africa in 2015 to provide trauma care and counseling to survivors of piracy attacks, natural disasters and crises at sea. The CRN has since expanded to Europe and Asia to keep up with the need for its service, and now has 52 chaplains trained to offer crisis support to seafarers around the world.

Sailors’ Society’s CEO Stuart Rivers said, “Piracy, and the fear of piracy, is a massive issue for seafarers. Survivors of piracy and kidnappings are exposed to violence and terror, which can have a devastating impact on them and their families for years to come.

“That such a high number of those seeking support from our Crisis Response Network have been affected by the trauma of piracy is sadly not surprising.”

Indonesian fisherman Adi Manurung is one who received support from the CRN. Adi had been held captive by Somali pirates for almost five years, before being released in October 2016. He was supported by Sailors’ Society chaplains, who accompanied him on visits to the psychiatrist, provided counseling to him and his family and provided financial support. Adi said, “I thought that I would die. There was no hope.”

The CRN also supports seafarers who have been imprisoned, often through no fault of their own. After he was held hostage by pirates for 10 months, Ukrainian captain Valentin Dudnik decided to help the fight against piracy by leading the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio, carrying security guards to protect ships in pirate-infested waters. But the CRN had to come to his help instead when he and his 34 crew members were sentenced to five years in jail in India for allegedly transporting arms without the correct paperwork and illegally obtaining fuel.

While in prison, Valentin was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said, “After four months in jail, I fell ill. The pain was terrible. The doctors wanted to operate on me. I had lost 35kg of weight, I couldn’t eat and could only drink water.”

In hospital, Valentin underwent multiple bouts of radiation and chemotherapy. “This was the most horrible period of my life. Time past and we were still in prison and then I fell ill. My health was affected by the prolonged stress, it was the cause of this disease,” Valentin said.

The crew were acquitted in November 2017, too late for Valentin to see his dying mother.

“I continue to fight for life,” he said. “Three months after returning home I gradually began to walk, but the nightmares continue.”

Emergency contact details for the CRN are available at http://www.sailors-society.org/crisis

Posted November 1, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

ReCAAP Warns of New Abu Sayyaf Kidnapping Threat   Leave a comment

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Abu Sayyaf fighters in an undated video still (social media)

BY MAREX 

On Tuesday, the ReCAAP piracy reporting center warned that a faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group is preparing to launch another round of pirate attacks in the waters off Sabah, Malaysia.

According to ReCAAP, the Philippine Coast Guard believes that a group of about ten Abu Sayyaf members are planning to conduct kidnappings in and around Eastern Sabah “at any opportune time.” The ASG fighters do not have specific, pre-identified targets, but are expected to pursue “businessmen or ship’s crew of foreign vessels passing through the area.”

The suspected fighters are using an unmarked, blue and white motorized launch of the Malaysian design known as a jungkong. ReCAAP reports that they are heavily armed, with pistols, rifles and at least one grenade launcher. Mariners are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance when transiting the waters off Eastern Sabah and the Sulu-Celebes Seas, and ReCAAP has long advised ships to avoid the affected area altogether whenever possible.

Separately, at the nearby port of Zamboanga, the Philippine Coast Guard is deploying additional security teams and K9 units to prevent “entry of lawless elements,” according to Lieutenant Commander Noriel Ramos. Zamboanga is a key seaport for travel to and from the Sulu archipelago, the home of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Fighting between the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Philippine military continues in the region. On Tuesday, two suspected Abu Sayyaf members were killed on Sulu in a three-hour firefight with Philippine Marines. The Armed Forces of the Philippines estimated the size of the Abu Sayyaf unit in the engagement at about 40 fighters.

The AFP launched a large-scale ground offensive to eliminate Abu Sayyaf bases in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan in 2016. The effort has reduced the rate of Abu Sayyaf hijackings and kidnappings, but firefights and arrests continue. About 125 Abu Sayyaf fighters have surrendered to AFP forces since the start of the year under an amnesty program.

Posted November 1, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS

EU NAVFOR Blows Up Suspected Pirate Skiff   Leave a comment

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Image courtesy EU NAVFOR

BY MAREX 

On Sunday, EU NAVFOR’s naval forces destroyed a pirate skiff similar to that used in the attempted attack on the bulker KSL Sydney.

On October 16, a skiff with four armed pirates approached the Sydney at a position about 340 nm off Mogadishu. The captain mustered the crew in the vessel’s citadel and set off the SSAS alarm. Meanwhile, the Sydney’s embarked security team engaged the attackers in a “sustained exchange of fire,” according to EUNAVFOR. The skiff eventually broke off and abandoned the pursuit.

After the attack on the Sydney, EU NAVFOR commander Rear Adm. Alfonso Perez de Nanclares ordered additional units to the area for an investigation. Spanish maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew over the area to gain as much information on suspected pirate activity as they could. Their patrols found that pirate launches were still active in the area and could be used to launch further attacks on shipping.

A suspicious boat identified by the patrol aircraft was later tracked down by the crew of the Spanish amphib ESPS Castilla to a small bay just off the Somali coast. Rear Adm. Perez ordered it to be seized, towed out to sea and destroyed.

Somali piracy has fallen far from its peak in 2011-2012, when pirate “mother ship” boats ranged thousands of miles across the Indian Ocean. A combination of armed shipboard security contractors and multinational naval patrols ultimately suppressed the problem, resulting in several years without a successful attack. Somali piracy re-emerged last year with a series of attacks on small dhows and foreign bulkers, like the hijacking of the OS 35.

Posted November 1, 2018 by rrts in -NEWS