Archive for December 2015

Polish Sailors Kidnapped off Nigeria Freed   1 comment

pirates
file photo

By MarEx 

The Polish crew of a cargo vessel kidnapped last month off the Nigerian coast are safe and on their way home, Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on Tuesday.

“Everything ended happily. The sailors are safe and sound, we are glad that they are coming back to their families,” Szydlo said at a televised news conference.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski thanked Nigerian authorities and the operator of the vessel, EuroAfrica, for their co-operation in efforts to free the crew.

Pirates attacked the Cyprus-registered Szafir cargo vessel at the end of November and kidnapped its captain and four crew.

The Szafir was en route from Antwerp to Port Harcourt with a load of cranes and other items. In addition to the kidnapping, the pirates looted the vessel’s accommodations.

This was the second major attack on a commercial vessel near Nigeria within a month. Pirates kidnapped four crewmembers of a Comoros-flagged vessel off Port Harcourt in late October; two were released November 16.

Only eleven attacks on merchant vessels near Nigeria were reported in the first half of 2015, down by half from 2013, but Nigerian pirates have also been implicated in recent attacks off the coasts of other West African nations.

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Posted December 20, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Nigeria Inaugurates Maritime Surveillance System   1 comment

Drill
Anti-piracy drill (file photo)

By MarEx 

The Nigerian Navy has begun use of the Israeli-designed, UAE-built Falcon Eye mass surveillance system for purposes of maritime domain awareness (MDA) in the Gulf of Guinea.

The waters off the coast of Nigeria are notorious for piracy, especially kidnappings and oil theft, and the technology is intended to help the country’s armed forces combat maritime crimes. Rear Admiral Raphael Osondu told media that piracy is a persistent threat to Nigeria’s economy, and that countering it is a key priority for the military.

Falcon Eye’s six electro-optical stations provide for the monitoring of aircraft, vessels and offshore oil infrastructure. The system has a range of up to 35 nm from the coast, well beyond the 12 nm limit of Nigeria’s territorial seas.

Admiral Osondu added that the new system covers “the blind arcs which we experience in some parts of our territorial waters with the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) system.” RMAC is an American-sponsored coastal surveillance system using AIS and ground-based radar to track maritime traffic, and was deployed in the Gulf of Guinea in 2011.

“The Falcon Eye will aid the Nigerian Navy with a better and more accurate system to monitor and conduct activities in Nigerian Maritime Domain and her EEZ,” he added. The Nigerian Navy’s training center for the system has already prepared some 70 personnel to operate Falcon Eye.

Falcon Eye is the end product of a seven year arrangement between Israeli entrepreneur Mati Kochavi’s Asia Global Technology (AGT) and the UAE-based companies Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS) and Advanced Technical Solutions (ATS). The system has been installed in multiple shoreside applications in the Emirates, including the Abu Dhabi City Surveillance project, which integrated feeds from 500 cameras to provide automated analysis of security video.

In 2014, aerospace and defense firm Airbus announced a contract with the UAE military for two new optical surveillance satellites to add capability to Falcon Eye in the Emirates. Whether coverage will extend to other Falcon Eye clients was not specified.

In addition to the Nigerian military’s shore-based surveillance systems, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has said that it is considering the acquisition of drone aircraft for MDA purposes.

Posted December 20, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Pirates Repossess Fishing Vessel   1 comment

Chok
The Chok Boonmee 5 (courtesy Royal Thai Navy)

By MarEx

Last Wednesday a group of armed pirates boarded the Thai fishing vessel Chok Boonmee 5 and forced her crew over the side. The attackers kept the captain aboard and forced him to take the vessel towards Malaysian waters.

The six pirates used a long tailed boat to approach the fishing vessel near Leepeh Island, Thailand. The captain managed to get off a mayday alerting authorities to the attack before the vessel was seized.

Local media reports differ on the details of the crew’s abandonment; they were forced either onto a rock outcropping or into the water. Thai authorities rescued them all without incident and no injuries were reported.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said that it recovered the Chok Boonmee 5 with two of the six alleged pirates aboard, and that the vessel’s captain had been dropped off in Satun Province, Thailand, near the Malaysian border.

The two captured hijackers told police that they were working for the seller of the vessel, who had not yet been paid in full for its transfer. Thai owner Falil Pongtae had purchased theChok Boonmee 5 several months ago and was said to have other outstanding debts. It would appear that the hijacking was an attempt to compel payment, or to repossess the vessel.

Police did not reveal the amount the pirates were paid to commit the crime.

Authorities said that “only one of the two firearms used during the hijacking was real. The rest of the weapons wielded by the men were axes and slingshots.”

The two pirates captured – both in their early sixties – face charges of gang robbery, kidnapping, and illegal possession of a gun. They denied involvement in gang robbery but admitted to the other charges. Investigation into the circumstances of the crime are ongoing.

Posted December 20, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Somalia: Pirates Killed, Fishermen Free   1 comment

pirates

By MarEx

A gun battle has occurred during the rescue of fishermen held by Somali pirates off the nation’s coast.

Media reports indicate that an unknown number of pirates were killed on the Iraninan fishing vessel, although it is unclear whether or not international agencies were involved in the rescue or whether the 15 fishermen themselves took the initiative.

Seven pirates may have been killed and another two injured, and the fishing boat,Muhammidi, has now reportedly left the coast.

The Iranian ship was taken on Sunday November 22 in waters off northern Somali city of Eyl.

Two other Iranian fishing ships were captured by suspected pirates in March. The 16 crew from one boat managed to raise anchor and escape in August, but the other ship and 26 crew remain in captivity.

There have been three other unsuccessful sea attacks by Somali pirates in the past few weeks.

Somali officials say the decline in piracy in recent years has emboldened foreign-flagged illegal fishing vessels to plunder Somalia’s fish stocks closer to shore, bringing them within reach of pirate gangs.

In a report published in October, the U.N. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group said it was concerned that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign vessels may re-establish the conflict dynamic with local fishing communities that contributed to the rise of piracy a decade ago.

The last outbreak of Somali piracy, at the end of the previous decade, 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.

Posted December 20, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

App for Eye Witnesses to Atrocities   Leave a comment

abuse

By MarEx 

The charity Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has made it possible for people who witness crimes and abuse at sea to use the eyeWitness to Atrocities App to capture evidence.

Developed by the International Bar Association (IBA), the App, through its unique capabilities, enables Android smartphones and tablets to be used to document crimes – such as murder, armed robbery, human trafficking, piracy and drug smuggling – in a way that is admissible as evidence in a court of law.

The App is an easy-to-use camera app that collects and embeds, in the images taken by a user, GPS coordinates, date and time, device sensor data, and surrounding objects such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks. The collection of this metadata provides verification and context and is encrypted and securely stored within the app together with the images.

The user may then upload the footage directly to a secure storage facility, hosted by LexisNexis and maintained solely by the eyeWitness organisation. In doing so, a chain of custody record verifies that the footage has not been edited or digitally manipulated. Thus, the images attain a level of authentication which allows for their use in investigations or trials.

David Hammond, CEO of HRAS, said “This is another maritime first using the power of technology in order to assist in evidential gathering of potential or actual human rights abuse incidents which ordinarily would occur out of sight and out of mind at sea. Up to this point such evidence has often been hidden from the investigatory efforts of our charity that wishes to identify and address such abuses that would otherwise go unreported within the maritime environment. Today, the ability of those individuals or entities who wish to cover up or ignore abuse has been deal a significant blow.”

Fraud

eyeWitness highlights the problems that can occur without properly verified images. For example, in 2010, U.K.’s Channel 4 capture video of soldiers laughing as a naked, bound prisoner was shot on a muddy track. Bodies littered the ground around, including those of at least seven women lying dead and undressed. Unseen onlookers were recorded sneering and making lewd comments.

The film was claimed to be taken in Sri Lanka, but the government denounced it as fake. It took months to verify the truth. The films were scoured for detail, every frame inspected, every source exhausted, every potential witness contacted. But even then, the truth could not be guaranteed. Experts are far from infallible, and even the best make mistakes. A degree of doubt will always remain, wielded like a weapon by the alleged perpetrators to beat back their adversaries, says IBA.

The organization developed the App to enable honest activists, journalists and citizens to be set apart from potential fraudsters, giving them the credibility and security they need to document gross human rights violations.

Hammond says that the collaboration between eyeWitness and Human Rights at Sea will empower seafarers to record and report violations occurring at sea and help hold accountable the people responsible for these abuses.

Privacy

Protection for victims and bystanders is a key priority, stresses eyeWitness Project Director Wendy Betts. “eyeWitness has an ethical obligation to do no harm and we take the protection of these individuals very seriously. We will take all possible measures to ensure our use of the collected footage does not put anyone at risk and respects the privacy of innocent victims and witnesses appearing in the videos.”

The hope, however, is that privacy concerns will pale in comparison to the broader purpose of the app: an end to impunity for the most severe human rights violations.

Need

“The founding principle of HRAS that ‘Human Rights apply at sea as equally as they do on land’ is a premise shared by eyeWitness,” says Betts. “Empowering seafarers to capture vital information that can serve as key evidence in legal investigations into these violations underlies our common aim to increase justice and bring prosecutions through relevant authorities. This collaboration could not be more opportune.”

Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director, commented: “The increasing number of reports about violations of human rights taking place at sea demonstrates the serious and rampant nature of these abuses. Working with Human Rights at Sea to combat the impunity that the perpetrators of these crimes currently enjoy is a new development which we at the International Bar Association wholeheartedly welcome.”

More information is available here.

Posted December 7, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

Somalia: Pirates Killed, Fishermen Free   1 comment

piratesfile photo

By MarEx

A gun battle has occurred during the rescue of fishermen held by Somali pirates off the nation’s coast.

Media reports indicate that an unknown number of pirates were killed on the Iraninan fishing vessel, although it is unclear whether or not international agencies were involved in the rescue or whether the 15 fishermen themselves took the initiative.

Seven pirates may have been killed and another two injured, and the fishing boat,Muhammidi, has now reportedly left the coast.

The Iranian ship was taken on Sunday November 22 in waters off northern Somali city of Eyl.

Two other Iranian fishing ships were captured by suspected pirates in March. The 16 crew from one boat managed to raise anchor and escape in August, but the other ship and 26 crew remain in captivity.

There have been three other unsuccessful sea attacks by Somali pirates in the past few weeks.

Somali officials say the decline in piracy in recent years has emboldened foreign-flagged illegal fishing vessels to plunder Somalia’s fish stocks closer to shore, bringing them within reach of pirate gangs.

In a report published in October, the U.N. Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group said it was concerned that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign vessels may re-establish the conflict dynamic with local fishing communities that contributed to the rise of piracy a decade ago.

The last outbreak of Somali piracy, at the end of the previous decade, 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.

Posted December 7, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS

New Anti-Piracy Guide for Tankers   1 comment

tanker

By MarEx 

ReCAAP ISC has published a guide for tankers operating in Asia aimed at helping prevent piracy.

The Guide for Tankers Operating in Asia against Piracy and Armed Robbery Involving Oil Cargo Theft was prepared as a result of the continued occurrence of oil cargo theft but is also relevant to other vessel types.

Between 2011 and September 2015, a total of 35 oil cargo theft incidents had been reported in Asia with more than half of them occurring in the South China Sea.

For the first nine months of 2015, a total of 12 incidents had been reported; of which two incidents were foiled by the authorities whose timely responses to the immediate reporting by the masters and shipping companies had resulted in the arrest of the perpetrators involved.

The new guide makes the following recommendations:

Ship Manager
• Must be updated on the latest situation through reports promulgated by the ReCAAP
ISC and IFC and must brief crew before sailing and advise the master and crew to exercise vigilance especially when transiting vulnerable areas.
• Establish an effective ship’s security and communication plan including a back-up plan in case the primary mode of communication fails and ensure that the crew know about these plans.
• Compartmentalize information on a “need-to-know” basis, particularly the type and volume of the cargo oil the ship is carrying to ensure the confidentiality of the information.
• Conduct regular background checks of crew to ensure their credibility and be aware of the crew’s activities on board the ship and while ashore.
• Ensure that the master and crew know the importance of timely reporting to flag state and coastal state in accordance with Maritime Safety Committee Circular 1334 and have readily compiled contact details before start of voyage.
• Establish self-protection measures, for instance rigging up physical barriers and installing security equipment on board ship such as alarms, CCTVs, tracking devices and others to detect and deter perpetrators from boarding the ship.
• Ensure that the ship security officer has conducted random inspections and checks on the ship, crew and cargo before setting sail.

Ship Master / Crew
• Adopt best practices in anti-piracy efforts and other relevant elements of BMP 4.
• Equip with an updated list of authorities of the coastal states to contact in case of any eventualities.
• Inform enforcement agency in the nearest coastal state of the ship’s planned movement, especially when transiting areas that were vulnerable.

The guide is available here.

Posted December 7, 2015 by rrts in -NEWS