Archive for April 2015

Pirates Attack Two Vessels in Asia   1 comment


By Wendy Laursen

Two pirate attacks have been reported to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre this month.

On Friday, a general cargo ship was boarded by two pirates while at Sandakan Port Berth No. 4 in Malaysia. The alarm was raised and crew mustered. Seeing the crew alertness, the robbers escaped, taking with them some stolen property.

Last Wednesday, a product tanker was boarded while under way around 62 nautical miles north of Pulau Uwi in Indonesia. Around 15-25 pirates armed with pistols boarded and hijacked the vessel, taking the crew hostage. They damaged onboard equipment and stole crew personal belongings. The pirates also transferred the ship’s cargo into another vessel and escaped. All crew are safe and the tanker is sailing to a safe port.

The effects of a third, earlier incident in Asia are still being felt. The Philippine Coast Guard is reportedly concerned about the potential for an oil spill from a hijacked Indonesian tanker that has been left aground in Barangay Cabuaya in Mati, Davao Oriental since February.

MT Rehoboth still has fuel that might leak into the sea, and local authorities say the vessel should be towed away before an oil spill occurs. The vessel has been looted, and the Coast Guard is meeting with stakeholders to decide the fate of the vessel which was hijacked near Paraitan Lembeh Island in North Sulawesi on January 29.

The vessel was hijacked by pirates armed with guns and machetes. Two crew members were thrown overboard and were then rescued by fishermen.

Posted April 11, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Illegal Fishing Threatens Resurgence of Somali Piracy   Leave a comment

Somali pirates

By MarEx 

A rise in illegal fishing off Somalia could spark a resurgence in piracy, United Nations and Somali fishing officials have warned, nearly three years after the pirates’ last successful hijacking in the Indian Ocean.

The last outbreak of Somali piracy cost the world’s shipping industry billions of dollars as pirates paralyzed shipping lanes, kidnapped hundreds of seafarers and seized vessels more than 1,000 miles from Somalia’s coastline.

Since then, growing use of private security details and the presence of international warships have effectively neutered the pirates. Yet one side effect of this decline has been a rise in illegal fishing, with trawler captains increasingly confident they can operate with impunity, Somali officials say.

Alan Cole, an official at the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (ODC), said piracy could return as criminal gangs and pirates use the rise in illegal fishing as a pretext to hijack other vessels.

“The international community has spent millions of dollars trying to counter piracy and help Somalia and make sure that (sea) trade is not interrupted, but because of the activity of a relatively small number of illegal fishing vessels, all that is put at risk,” Cole said.

The last successful hijacking took place in May 2012 and some 26 sailors are still being held captive by Somali pirates seeking ransom, down from about 750 at the peak of the piracy crisis at the beginning of the decade, U.N. officials said.

Security measures taken by shipping companies and the presence of the 30-country Coalition Maritime Forces (CMF) naval group means any fresh piracy outburst is likely to be contained.

However, the merest hint of a return to the bad old days will once again push up insurance premiums, meaning the cost to the global shipping industry could be significant.

A 2014 report by the Oceans Beyond Piracy group put the total economic cost of Somali piracy — by far the largest single threat to international shipping in recent years — at $3.2 billion in 2013, down from $6 billion in 2012.

Captured Iranians

The issue of illegal fishing has been rising up the political agenda in Somalia, where several hundred Mogadishu residents this month protested against the practice.

Two Iranian-owned fishing vessels, with 48 Iranian sailors on board, were seized and detained earlier in March by angry fishermen near Somalia’s coastline, a regional official said. The sailors were handed over to the local government which is still deciding what to do with them.

There is no official data on illegal fishing, but Yaasin Ali Yuusuf, director general of the Ministry of Fisheries in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region, said many South Korean, Chinese and Iranian vessels have been fishing without licenses or with forged licenses in Somali waters.

South Korea dismissed the claim. What had been previously South Korean vessels have since been sold and the real ownership of the vessels now belongs to countries including Oman and Somalia, said an official at Seoul’s ministry of fisheries.

The Chinese foreign ministry said China has always demanded that its citizens fish in accordance to law.

Yuusuf said locals are looking at ways to chase away foreign trawlers — a move reminiscent of how Somali piracy started in the early 1990s, when successful attacks on fishing boats eventually led to lucrative assaults on oil tankers.

“It’s a very serious issue and I’m very concerned … that it might bring back piracy,” said Yuusuf, who added that Somalia could not deal with the illegal fishing problem on its own.

Many Somalis are frustrated naval forces tasked with stopping piracy, as well as the smuggling of drugs and arms, have not detained illegal fishing vessels.

“If they have a mandate to protect the (shipping) lanes from the pirates, they have to protect the resources of these poor people against illegal fishing,” said Abdiwahid Mohamed Hersi, chief executive of Global Sea Food International, a Somalia company exporting fish to Oman.

Copyright Reuters 2015.

Posted April 1, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Pirates Shifting Operations Towards India   Leave a comment


By Wendy Laursen

After being neutralized by combined naval forces, Somali pirates are shifting their activities towards India, says India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. But, says Parrikar, his country is watchful.

“Because their (shipping) lanes are heavily guarded, they have slightly moved to this side (30-40 nautical miles). They are still 450 nautical miles away from India,” he told reporters at an international conference on Sunday.

Piracy has been a major concern for Indian seafarers and for the nation as a whole as most of India’s shipping trade passes Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. Seven Indian sailors kidnapped by Somali pirates more than four years were freed last October, and an Inter-Ministerial Group was set up by the Ministry of Shipping earlier this year to deal with hostage situations arising from piracy incidents on merchant vessels with Indian crew.

Security in the Indian Ocean

Parrikar called for greater cooperation between the neighboring countries on Sunday, saying the Indian Ocean can be an enricher and also a destroyer, reports the Press Trust of India.

Speaking about China’s perceived strength in the region, Parrikar said India wants cordial relations with its neighboring countries.

“India is exchanging joint exercises, discussions and training with other countries. Around 38 countries are sending their defense personnel to India for training,” he said, adding India was planning to export defense material to these counties, reports The Times of India.

Echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks earlier this month, Parrikar said he would like to see the establishment of a common platform for the Indian Ocean rim region. India’s strength lies in non-violence, but this can only be practiced by those who are strong, he said.

Posted April 1, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Thai Slave “Chained Like a Dog”   Leave a comment

fishing slave

By MarEx 

An International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) delegation has boarded industrial fishing vessels landing their catch in Songkhla port, Southern Thailand last week, as part of an investigation into labor rights abuses.

The four strong team, who will be in Thailand for six days, found that fishers on board were subject to poor working conditions, cramped accommodation and long contracts, some of them with no hope of returning home with any pay.

ITF inspector Keith McCorriston commented on the conditions found on a vessel he inspected: “The crew were scared to talk to us. They had no contracts, no toilet, no shower, no mattresses. Cooking facilities consisted of an open flame and basic utensils, the 24 crew slept in cramped accommodation. We spoke to one fisher who had been on board for 10 months, although we suspect this is a gross understatement.”

Apinya Tajit from the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre in Sriracha explained: “We are dealing with many cases of abandoned fishers in Thailand and of Thai fishers outside of Thailand. We know of one fisher who was abandoned in hospital with no pay after breaking his leg while on board a vessel. He has never had any pay after two years on board. We’re paying his medical bill. Another fisher is so traumatized by his experiences of abuse that he needs trauma counselling. He struggled to explain to us how he was chained up like a dog for trying to escape the vessel he was on.”

Mark Davis, ITF deputy regional secretary for the Asia Pacific region, added: “The industry is facing huge challenges throughout the region but it is the workers who are suffering because of this. Neglect and abuse are rife for migrant workers and Thai nationals too. How have we got to a position where a fish has more value than the worker who catches it?”

Vessels fishing in the gulf of Thailand and Malaysia drop off their catch in Songkhla port daily for selling or canning locally. There are reportedly 40,000 Thai vessels operating with only 10,000 registered (many with fake licenses) and unregistered migrant workers. This ‘cloak of invisibility’ allows the boat captains to treat workers like modern day slaves.

Posted April 1, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Two Pirate Boardings in Malacca Straits   Leave a comment


By Wendy Laursen

Two separate piracy incidents on Saturday have led the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) to issue a warning to masters transiting the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

In one incident, the Luxembourg-registered container ship MSC Vancouver was boarded while underway approximately nine nautical miles northeast of Pulau Karimun Besar. Seven pirates armed with knives and tools boarded the ship and robbed the second engineer of a gold watch and chain.

A few hours earlier, four men boarded the Marshall Islands-registered bulk carrier Capetan Giorgis while it was underway 3.8 nautical miles off Tanjung Sengkuang, Batam. Nothing appears to be missing from the vessel as a result.

Both crews are safe.

ReCAAP has issued the following warning: “From the close proximity of the two incidents, it is of high probability that the robbers will continue to pry in this area over the next few days. The ReCAAP ISC recommends vessels to take extra precautionary measures when operating in this area, especially in the hours of darkness, post extra all round lookouts and alert the authorities as soon as possible, even in attempted cases. The Centre also urges law enforcement agencies to heighten their attention to this area.”

There were 11 incidents of piracy and armed robbery reported in Asia in February 2015. Of those, five occurred on board ships while underway in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and one while underway in the Malacca Strait.

Posted April 1, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

African States Establish New Piracy Center   Leave a comment


By Wendy Laursen

The Economic Community of West African States has inaugurated a maritime coordination center for the most dangerous piracy zone in West Africa.

In doing so, the community (ECOWAS) has reaffirmed its commitment to tackling the problems of piracy, fuel theft and other illegal operations in the region.

The area covered by the center will include Benin, Niger, Nigeria and Togo, and it will coordinate joint activities including patrols, information sharing and training initiatives.

According to local media reports, Nigeria intercepted over 80 ships conducting illegal activities in its waters in 2014. The country also reportedly loses $2 billion each year due to oil theft.

The center’s establishment has been achieved through the work of ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, and is part of a range of actions agreed at a summit in June 2013, says Barthelemy Blede, Senior Researcher, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, at the Institute for Security Studies, Dakar.

“The international community and all other actors in the maritime industry must increase support for these efforts,” says Blede. IMO, the EU and several countries including France, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Japan and China already provide assistance in the region.

“Assistance should go beyond the writing of strategies, training courses and simulation exercises,” says Blede. “The region also needs to increase its material resources in terms of naval assets and maritime aviation capabilities if it is to respond appropriately to brutal maritime attacks.”

Posted April 1, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS