Archive for February 2014

PIRACY VERSUS TOURISM: OCEAN TERRORISTS DOWN BUT NOT YET OUT   1 comment

Ocean terrorists – down but not yet out

While the Somali ocean terrorists have suffered major setbacks over the past year as a result of more determined surveillance and harsh responses by the anti-piracy coalition policing the waters of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, they are not quite yet fully defeated.

Territorial advances by UNISOM has clearly robbed the terrorists, pirates often in league with Al Shabab militants, of bases from where to launch their attacks or hide after returning from sea. Still it was only a narrow escape last week on Thursday when MV Andrea, coming from the Kenyan port of Mombasa and sailing to the port of Mogadishu, came twice under attack by some of the remnants of the ocean terrorists. Security personnel on board reportedly twice repelled the attackers when opening fire on them, yet more evidence that harsh responses do work and that the use of armed security on board of ships traversing the Red Sea and this part of the Indian Ocean has proven its merit once again.

Kenya’s port of Mombasa, as do other Indian Ocean ports like Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam or the island ports of Victoria, Seychelles’ Port Louis, Mauritius; and St. Denis, Reunion, to name but a few, are working hard to restore cruise ship traffic to increase tourist visitor numbers, and this latest incident will in particular bring attention back to the need of counter measures both on board ships as well as through the international naval coalition and to remain vigilant and alert to the dangers which still exist when sailing along Africa’s Eastern shores and around the Horn of Africa. Mombasa had two port calls of cruise ships this year already and is hoping for more, underscoring the need for the Kenyan naval forces to provide cover to cruise ships and cargo vessels as soon as they enter the country’s extended maritime economic zone.

eturbonews.com

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Posted February 19, 2014 by rrts in -NEWS

THE MYTH OF WEST AFRICA’S PIRACY PROBLEM   1 comment

west africa gulf of guinea map

Image (c) Shutterstock/Gabrel

By Jessica Knight,

Nigeria and its coastal neighbors face a grave security problem in the form of rising maritime crime and militancy in the Gulf of Guinea – but there is no piracy in West Africa.

The word piracy has reentered the common vernacular as vivid and convenient shorthand for anything violent, criminal, or otherwise illicit that happens at sea. But piracy is not, in fact, a catchall term for maritime crime. It has a technical definition, outlined in Article 101of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

      (a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

 

    1. on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
    2. against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State.1

The high seas here refers to international waters, which usually begin 12 nautical miles off the coast. But most of the maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea today occurs much closer to shore. Every incident reported by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in the Gulf of Guinea since 2003 occurred well within the territorial waters or exclusive economic zone of Nigeria or its neighbors. As such, many of these incidents cannot be considered piracyunder UNCLOS, our primary international convention on maritime rights and responsibilities.

But who cares about terminology? This is all semantics, right? Wrong. In the Nigerian case, here are three reasons why our words really do matter.

1. “Nigerian piracy” suggests false links with piracy in other locations, namely Somalia.

The resurgence of modern piracy in the last decade has centered on Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. From 2005-2010, Somalia alone witnessed 669 reported piracy attacks, with over 3200 taken hostage and nearly 50 casualties. This surge in the number and frequency of attacks included several high-profile incidents, such as the 2009 hijacking of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama. As a result, the piracy problem in Somalia captured significant public attention in international business, media, government – and even Hollywood.

Enter Nigeria. Attacks on vessels off the Nigerian coast increased 250% between 2006-2007 and continued to destabilize the region in the years that followed.2 Many observers viewed this rise of maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea through the lens of recent experience in the Gulf of Aden. This heuristic proved more misleading than useful, and people failed to distinguish the two profoundly different phenomena. Piracy in the public lexicon became almost synonymous with Somali piracy – so much so that, on a few egregious occasions, the press reported activities of “Somali pirates in Nigeria,” seemingly unaware that the two countries lie on opposite coasts of a massive continent.

Analysts usually fall into subtler errors. The news is full of reports on the “shift” in piracy from East to West Africa, even from reputable outlets such as TIME and Foreign Policy. But the tempting language of trendsspreads, and shifts betrays a false assumption that pirate-like activities in East and West Africa are connected. True, piracy off the Somali coast declined sharply around the same time that certain types of maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea began to rise – but nothing shifted from east to west. Piracy did not spread. Those developments have nothing in common, except both are happening in Africa and pertain to crime at sea.

Some great analysis has been done on this issue recently. Even so, the overwhelming tendency is still to speak as though Somalia and Nigeria are fighting a big pan-African piracy crisis, which simply does not exist.

2. “Nigerian piracy” confuses our thinking about possible responses. 

The IMB just released statistics on Somali piracy in 2013, and they reveal a startling drop in activity: only 15 reported incidents last year, compared to 75 in 2012, and 237 in 2011. We can attribute this to a combination of increased shipboard countermeasures, to include wide-scale implementation of armed private security teams onboard vessels; a heavy international military response, including three multinational task forces policing the Gulf of Aden; and multiple UN Security Council Resolutions.

Such concerted international effort is not possible in Nigeria. All countries share responsibility for fighting piracy on the high seas, according to UNCLOS Article 100. But because most of the Nigerian attacks do not fit the UNCLOS definition of piracy, international law does not apply. The UN has no jurisdiction to send in a task force. Combatting violence in the Gulf of Guinea remains the legal responsibility of the coastal states, which have yet to demonstrate the capacity for effective response.

Even tactical counter-piracy measures largely depend on jurisdiction. In addition to hardening targets (e.g. using barbed wire on board ships), many shipping companies have begun to employ armed private security teams on vessels transiting high-risk waters. This has proven highly successful in the Gulf of Aden. However, Nigerian law forbids foreign armed security within its territory. Companies that wish to use armed security teams that have been vetted with international work histories must remain outside Nigerian waters. The alternative is to trust local navies and coast guards to provide protection, or to employ local Nigerian security teams with perhaps unknown work history, training, and standards.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of piracy and maritime crime. We must recognize this in order to focus productively on addressing the dangers in the Gulf of Guinea.

3. “Nigerian piracy” obscures the real links between illicit activity on- and offshore.

Talking about Nigerian piracy not only builds false links to piracy elsewhere, but it also obscures the very real links to what happens onshore. Nigerian piracy does not occur in isolation. It is part of a system of illicit activity that spans the entire Niger Delta region and the Gulf of Guinea.

You see the same mix of actors on and offshore: impoverished youth with no legal employment opportunities, local criminal networks for bunkering and refining, organized militant groups with grievances against the government and international oil companies, corrupt officials stealing oil on an industrial scale. They engage in the same types of actions, with tactical adjustments for the maritime environment: violent attacks, infrastructure sabotage, kidnap and ransom, theft, bunkering. These dynamics do not change whether you look on land or at sea. The only meaningful difference between “Nigerian piracy” and “crime and militancy in the Niger Delta” is that one happens on the water.

Context is everything, especially when looking at complex problems. When we talk aboutpiracy as though it is fundamentally different than illicit activity on land, we rip it out of context. We draw a great seam in our analysis right down the coastline, which leads to misinterpretation, information gaps, and flawed conclusions.

However, when one identifies piracy as part of a broader, systemic problem, new avenues for insight emerge. Suddenly, instead of an inexplicable rash of hijackings and kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea, we see the extension of a deeply rooted, complex and ongoing conflict. The roots of the conflict are onshore. The effects are spilling over into the Gulf. When we situate piracy within this context, new trends and patterns appear, and the big picture becomes a little clearer.

What does this mean?

Despite these real concerns, the phrase Nigerian piracy is unlikely to vanish from public use. Nor should it! Maritime crime and militancy in the Gulf of Guinea may be more accurate, but it is certainly not more practical.

While we do not need to obsess over terminology, we need to remember that the words we use to discuss something can unconsciously shape our thinking about it – and not always for the better. Nigerian piracy is useful shorthand, but only if we all know what we’re really talking about.

About the Author

Jessica Knight is currently a second year Master’s student at Stanford University’s Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies. She is also an acting Fellow Six Maritime LLC studying security and stability solutions in Nigeria.

1 UNCLOS elaborates on this definition in Articles 100, 102-107.

2 The 250% figure is according to self-reported IMB data, which must be taken as a conservative estimate. The actual rate of piracy is likely much higher.

gcaptain.com

 

Posted February 19, 2014 by rrts in -NEWS

RRTSIA SEMINAR: RRTS TACTICAL KNIFE DEFENSE (BASIC)   Leave a comment

RRTS TACTICAL KNIFE DEFENSE

  • FECHA: Domingo 23 de Febrero del 2014.
  • LUGAR: Barranquilla (Colombia).
  • Nº DE PLAZAS: 10
  • RECEPCION Y PRESENTACION: 08:30 horas.

INFORMACION Y RESERVAS: info@rrtsia.com

Posted February 19, 2014 by rrts in -TRAINING

PIRACY SHIFTS TO WESTERN AFRICA   1 comment

File Photo: EnGarde
Photo: EnGarde

As international cooperation brings increasing pressure on more the traditional pirate trade in east Africa, there is mounting evidence that Western Africa, from Guinea-Bissau south to the Congo has become a new hotspot for the pirate trade.

While the movie “Captain Phillips”, a story about Somali pirates hijacking the Captain of the container ship Maersk Alabama, played in theaters around the world, the International Chamber of Commerce, International Maritime Bureau, was quietly issuing a new warning that the number of piracy incidents in West Africa was making that area increasingly dangerous.

On January 18 a Greek shipping firm lost contact with a Liberian flagged 75,000 ton oil tanker called the Kerala off the coast of Angola. It wasn’t until January 26th that the company was able to make contact with the ship and establish they had indeed been hijacked and a large amount of her cargo stolen. Later the oil-dependent Angolan government tried suggesting that the piracy had been faked. Security experts doubt the government story and warn the incident seems to be a clear escalation of the piracy formerly confined largely to the Gulf of Guinea.

Though pirates in Western Africa lack a lawless coast where they can hide hijacked vessels, the threat to crew and cargo moving through the area is still real. One of the telling moments for viewers watching Captain Phillips in theaters was how little protection freighter crews have from pirates. The Maersk Alabama’s only defenses were speed and fire hoses; in the end those weren’t enough.

The expanding threat horizon facing shipping on both coasts of Africa have prompted many shipping firms to consider upgraded defensive capabilities for their ships and crew. Companies that produce body armor and ballistic products are finding new customers among shipping companies operating ships in high-risk areas.

Iwan Luiten, Marketing Manager at EnGarde body armor, reports “More of their customers are companies with ships that routinely pass through high risk areas. Many have at least two emergency sets of body armor, including a helmet, ready for use.” These body armor sets are worn by the bridge watch during transiting high-risk areas and provide protection from small arms fire, flying glass and high speed grenade fragments.

It’s a certainty that as piracy spreads to a new coast in Africa that those who must work in dangerous waters will face a new round of threats from pirates.

engardebodyarmor.com

Posted February 19, 2014 by rrts in -NEWS

SUSPECTED PIRATES ATTACK KENYAN SHIP OFF COAST OF SOMALIA   1 comment

A Kenyan-based merchant vessel was attacked by suspected Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia on Friday in the first such attack since this year.

Kenya’s maritime official said the ill-fated vessel, dubbed MV Andrea, was attacked by assailants aboard a white hulled skiff while underway to the port of Mogadishu, Somalia.

“The crew members aboard the vessel are reported to be safe and sound since no one was injured during the gun fight,” Kenya Seafarers Union (KSU) Secretary General Andrew Mwangura told Xinhua in Mombasa.

Mwangura said the ship with 17 crew members, majority being Kenyans, was attacked by heavily armed gunmen. He said the security men aboard the merchant ship were able to dispel the attack.

Mwangura said the vessel was exporting cargo to Mogadishu before going to Comoros Islands. He said the security team aboard the merchant ship returned gunfire, forcing the gunmen to abort the attack and sail away.

Mwangura told Xinhua the attackers launched two unsuccessful attempts to hijack the ship. All crew members aboard the vessel are reported to be safe and sound.

The Sierra Leone flagged ship is operated and managed by the Mombasa-based Alpha Logistics Company.

It has been operating along Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, Comoros and Mozambique waters for many years. Incidents of piracy along the Somali waters have gone down since 2010 after the incursion of Kenya troops into Somalia.

Mwangura said there have been only five strings of unsuccessful pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean. Currently, Somali pirates are holding captive about 87 hostages, including four Kenyans over land and about 17 aboard a pirate mother ship.

The drop in piracy incidents is a relief to shipping companies using the Indian Ocean that have been the target of pirates.

This was the latest attack this year and comes after global anti-piracy watchdog reported that piracy off the coast of Somalia had dropped significantly for the past six years due to preventive measures deployed by the foreign warships to thwart such attacks.

The report by International Chamber Commerce (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reveals that there were only 15 incidents reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012, and 237 in 2011, contributing to the worldwide fall in piracy.

The Somali pirates have been deterred by a combination of factors, including the key role of international navies, the hardening of vessels, the use of private armed security teams, and the stabilizing influence of Somalia’s central government.

english.cri.cn

Posted February 19, 2014 by rrts in -NEWS

UN TO BOOST EFFORTS TO COMBAT MARITIME CRIME   1 comment

Rasika SomarathnaAlan Cole. Picture by Mahinda Withanachchi

While commending Sri Lanka’s efforts to counter drug, human smuggling and maritime crime in general in the Indian Ocean, a top United Nations official yesterday said the UN was willing to lend its expertise both in knowledge and technical know-how towards further improving capacity of local officials who are behind these initiatives.

Alan Cole, Regional Coordinator (Maritime Crime Program) for UN Office on Drugs and Crime, currently in Sri Lanka said, he was here to brief what the UN is doing to prevent wider crime in the Indian Ocean and discuss and develop strategies in partnership with the government to further boost efforts.

“Drug smuggling and human trafficking is an enormous challenge. The UNODC think Sri Lanka has got one of the most challenging circumstances as the country is geographically located in an important supply route. Sri Lanka has done well to combat such crime and we are ready to help further improve capacity and develop strategies at prevention in partnership with the government” he added in an interview with the ‘Daily News’.

Cole said Sri Lanka in recent years has done well to prevent human smuggling by sea and described efforts in this regard in partnership with the Australian government as an overwhelming success.

Cole, the point man for the UN in its anti piracy coordination activities against Somali pirates said Sri Lanka with other countries had supported UN’s endeavours in this regard and as a result the UN considers the problem is now under control. “We came here four years ago to brief the Sri Lankan government on what the UN response to Somali piracy was and at that time Somali pirates were been found on this side of the Indian Ocean and as far over as The Maldives,” Cole said.

“I am pleased to say that during last four years, the international community working together have arrested 1,400 Somali pirates who are being imprisoned in 21 countries. This has resulted and as a resulted in major drop in piracy,” Cole added.

Cole said the UN at present was engaged in helping carry out prosecutions and building prisons in Somalia itself to house convicted pirates, so that they do not become a burden on the country’s which are currently holding them.

Speaking on efforts to curb drug trafficking, especially heroin, Cole said there has been a huge increase in the trafficking of heroin across the Indian Ocean, mostly into East Africa and also into eastern Indian Ocean states in recent times.

Cole said in particular, the Sri Lanka Customs has done very well in recent times to prevent heroin from entering the country through various ports of entry .

He said the container control program operated by UNODC which seeks to improve the capabilities of ports worldwide, including Colombo.

Cole said the UNODC could further help Sri Lanka Customs to improve its online tracking of containers which is is a very important component to identify containers that might be of interest and how they have being traveling.

Cole said the UN could help Sri Lanka in terms of entering in to agreements with the Navies of other countries, prosecution of international drug dealers, updating legislation and improving the capacities of the law enforcement sector and prosecutors.

“ We can also provide new detection equipment and share our expertise on forensic analysis. Sri Lanka has got excellent capacity in many of these areas but there are yet some specialist skills which our agency has and which may be of interest to the Sri lankan government” he added.

Cole during his current visit has met with the Attorney General, Commissioner of Prisons among others and is slated to meet the Minister of Justice, Secretary of Defence, Navy Commander, Secretary of law and order and many other stake holders.

dailynews.lk

Posted February 19, 2014 by rrts in -NEWS

TIPPING POINT AS OIL PIRACY SPREADS FROM NIGERIA TO ANGOLA   1 comment

539w

The growing wave of piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, predicted to double in 2013, may have reached a tipping point as it recently spread south towards Angola, Africa’s second-largest oil producer. Recently, there was a frightening incident in West Africa where a gang of Nigerian pirates reportedly stole a tugboat and sailed south into Angolan waters on January 18, 2014 where they attacked MT Kerala, an oil products tanker a few miles off the coast of Luanda, the capital of Anglo. The Gulf of Guinea, a major com¬modities route, which covers an im¬mense area extending from the Guin¬ean coast to offshore Angola, has now become a piracy hotspot, where pi¬rates attack oil tankers and other car¬go vessels. They seize large oil tankers and load it onto other ships to sell on the lucrative black market.

The spate of attacks is surging as countries in West Africa are rapidly developing their oil and gas infra¬structure to capitalise on existing as¬sets and exploit new offshore discov¬eries.

West African piracy has in recent years spread from the coasts of Nige¬ria to the shorelines of many of the 11 West African countries such as Ga¬bon, Cameroun, Togo and Benin that border the Gulf.

A dangerous trend

While the number of pirate attacks worldwide was down to a six-year low in 2013, thanks to a significant fall in incidents off Somalia, attacks spiked in West Africa largely driven by Nige¬rian pirates.

Incidents off West Africa account¬ed for almost one fifth of the total at¬tacks worldwide in 2013, according to the annual global piracy report from International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Piracy attacks off Nigeria oil-rich coast increased to their highest level since 2008, the IMB said. With 31 pi¬rate attacks recorded, Nigeria was sec¬ond to Indonesia, which saw the most attacks last year with 106.

In its report on piracy and armed robbery prone areas, the maritime bureau warned mariners to be cau¬tious and take necessary precaution¬ary measures when transiting areas including Nigeria, saying “all waters in Nigeria remain risky. Vessels are advised to be vigilant as many attacks may have gone unreported.”

Much of the piracy that affects West Africa is a product of the dis¬order that surrounds the regional oil industry, says a recent United Nations report, entitled ‘Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea’.

“A large share of the recent piracy attacks targeted vessels carrying pe¬troleum products. These vessels are attacked because there is a booming black market for fuel in West Africa. Without this ready market, there would be little point in attacking these vessels,” the report said.

Another sore point for Nigeria’s oil in¬dustry

The surge in piracy attacks off Ni¬gerian waters is putting Nigeria’s be¬leaguered oil and gas industry at great risk.

Analysts have said that the rise in piracy attacks, especially as pirate gangs hijack large tankers at sea, si¬phoning off their oil cargoes into smaller ships, could increase the risk of doing business in the country.

Off Nigeria’s 530 miles of coast¬line, where dozens of tankers transit every day, attacks have pushed up in¬surance costs for shipping firms and oil companies, with the potential of scaring investors away from the in¬dustry due to increasing operating costs and losses resulting from crude theft by offshore pirates.

Bolaji Akinola, chief executive of¬ficer, Ships and Ports, said the surge in piracy attacks would hamper in¬vestment in the oil and gas industry. “Why will I want to invest if I am not sure of the safety of my investment? If I do that, it will be at a great cost. Already, insurance premium is very high due to increasing pirate attacks. The country has been rated war-risk zone by marine insurers. Fighting il¬legality in our waters should not be rocket science. The people perpetrat¬ing it are not invisible. Government should muster all its resources to curb this menace,” he said.

Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aero¬space business, said there were over 360 attacks on merchant shipping in the Gulf of Guinea as at November 2013, adding that without action by governments to protect offshore as¬sets the figure could rise to over 700 incidents in 2014.

The Group added that piracy threatens more than just oil and gas assets. “Criminal gangs at sea are re¬sponsible for drug trafficking, arms smuggling, dumping of toxic waste, illegal bunkering and illegal fishing. This is in addition to the problems caused by the profits from piracy that finance other criminal activity such as terrorism and human trafficking that have a significant human and fi¬nancial cost” says James Fisher, chief executive officer, Paramount Naval Systems.

The United Nations Security Council and various United States think tanks had recently warned that left unchecked, the expanding inse¬curity in the Gulf of Guinea risks sig¬nificantly endangering global trade, regional development and stability as the region becomes more sought after for oil and its strategic location.

Searching for solution

In June last year, West and cen¬tral African leaders in a summit held in Cameroun to address escalating piracy in the region, called for the establishment of an international na¬val force in the Gulf of Guinea to cut down on security threats.

In a bid to better deal with the growing number of pirates operating on the coast, Nigeria has erected eight towers along the coast equipped with cameras that can spot ships out to 48 kilometers at sea. The towers have been placed at the areas of highest offshore activity including waters off the major port of Lagos and oil export terminals at Bonny and Brass.

“Cooperation and capacity-build¬ing among the coastal states in this re¬gion is the way forward and urgently needed to make these waters safe for seafarers and vessels,” Pottengal Mu¬kundan, IMB director said in a recent report.

businessdayonline.com

Posted February 17, 2014 by rrts in -NEWS