Archive for February 2016

Pirates, Traffickers Could Develop Drone Force   1 comment

drone

By MarEx 

Drone technology is constantly improving and becoming more affordable, and a study published late last year warns that pirates and traffickers could potentially develop their own drone air force.

The use of drones, combined with GPS tracking and home-made submarines, could negate the need for criminals to outrun naval vessels to escape detection and capture.

The warning comes from a report published in the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies. Author David Rudd, a defense analyst for the Canadian government, says new players have emerged in recent decades that inhibit the ability of states to regulate domestic and international maritime activity. The challenge is accentuated by the downward pressure on defense and security budgets which negatively affect the ability of most Western navies to provide the expanding range of services required by their governments.

Access to communications and multi-media may be secured through commercially-available technologies and can be used to direct operations, recruit, raise funds and publicize successful operations, states the report. Navigation aids such as GPS are also readily available as is marine radar which can be installed on smaller vessels for counter-surveillance.

Meanwhile, the vulnerability of computer networks to non-state hackers raises the possibility of shipping schedules being covertly or otherwise illegally accessed. Maritime non state actors would thus be able to choose the time and place of attack with more precision, avoiding maritime patrol forces and potentially seizing vital cargo. That same information could also allow politically-motivated maritime non state actors to plan in advance for attacks on ships destined for port calls.

While the Islamic State is not a littoral-based organization, its use of heavy weaponry captured from the Iraqi army further illustrates the potential technical proficiency of non-state actors. This, combined with the availability of drone technology for surveillance and possibly weapons delivery, means that lethal encounters with state parties do not necessarily have to be at close quarters.

According to one analyst quoted in the report: “To date, there have been relatively few cases of other countries and, more important, non-state actors, employing drones. But they are coming…The proliferation of drones could radically alter the tactical battle space. For the first time, non-state adversaries would have an air force.”

Rudd states that navies should not be under the impression that maritime non state actors lack the means to undermine good order at sea or to challenge a navy’s ability to sail unmolested through contested waters. In the words of one academic: “Para-navies have been, but should not be, underestimated.”

The report is available here.

Posted February 16, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Container Vessel Released after Hijacking   1 comment

piracyFile photo

By MarEx 

A container ship, the Singapore-registered Safmarine Kuramo, has been released after it was hijacked off the Nigerian Coast on Friday night. The crew of 25 are reported to be safe.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said the 195m (640-foot) vessel was hijacked at about 8.06pm (Singapore time) en route from Pointe Noire, Congo, to Port Onne, Nigeria.

The vessel was boarded by armed pirates who robbed the crew and took some of the cargo. The Nigerian authorities were able to negotiate the release of the crew and the vessel on Saturday at 1.20am (Singapore time), and it is currently anchored in the waters off the Bonny River delta near to Port Onne.

Safmarine Kuramo is managed by Maersk Line. The crew consisted of nationals from the Philippines, South Africa, India, the U.K. and Thailand.

The incident follows an earlier hijacking of the product tanker Leon Dias. Two high-ranking Nigerian Navy officials confirmed Wednesday that the tanker was hijacked by Biafran separatists who are calling for the reinstatement of the Biafra state in Southern Nigeria. According to Nigerian media reports, the vessel and crew have now been released.

Posted February 13, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Hostages Released in Nigerian Pirate Attack   1 comment

GunnerFile image courtesy Nigerian Ministry of Defense

By MarEx 

Two high-ranking Nigerian Navy officials confirmed Wednesday that only one vessel – the product tanker Leon Dias, MMSI 9279927 – was hijacked last week by Biafran separatists, clarifying a story recently clouded by conflicting and vague information. According to Nigerian media reports, the officials said that the vessel and her crew have now been released, and that the vessel is currently in the custody of Benin’s navy.

Nigerian authorities did not comment on whether the hijackers had been captured following the release of the tanker and her crew.

Commodore Kabir Aliyu, Nigerian Navy Director of Information, told Nigeria’s Daily Trust that the ship and crew had been freed. He said in a text message that “the name of the ship isMT LEON DIAS (9279927). An oil tanker [sic], the ship is presently in Benin waters . . . off Cotonou Port and she is under the watch of the Benin Republic Navy.” As of Wednesday, the Leon Dias’ AIS signature confirms that she is about five nautical miles off Cotonou.

Separately, Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, Acting Director of Defence Information, said that the hijacking had not occurred in Nigerian waters, and that the act was not attributable to either of the organized Biafran groups IPOB or MASSOB. “The story about the hijack has happened but not within our waters and it is not under any particular group,” he said. “But [the ship] is currently being guarded by Benin Republic Navy. The name of the ship is MT Leondias [sic] (9279927), a tanker.”

Separately, he told Nigerian online news outlet Ynajia that the government would not categorize the attack as a politically motivated act of militancy, despite statements by the hijackers’ spokesman to the contrary. “I must add that on this issue of militancy, there are no more militants now, what we have are criminals. The Amnesty programme has taken care of the militants,” Abubakar said, referring to a conciliation payments program for Biafran agitators, ended by the government as of December. “The military will treat those behind such acts as criminal and saboteurs; the law will take its course; the security agencies will do their job.”

A leader of MASSOB, Mr. Uchenna Madu, denied that his organization was involved in the incident, but expressed understanding and sympathy for the hijackers and the attack. “You know that a lot of groups are springing up from the old Eastern Region to agitate for the actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra and as far as they are fighting for Biafra, we cannot disown them, but they have their own style which I think the Federal Government of Nigeria understands easily.  If you are not violent, they will not understand and they will ignore you. So, we support the group if [the hijacking] is what they have actually done,” he said.

A spokesman, known only as General Ben, had previously told media that the attack was intended to secure the release of Biafran movement leader Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra and head of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). He had said that the hijackers would take drastic action if their demands were not met swiftly, up to and including blowing up the vessel.

Posted February 6, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Piracy Less Severe in 2015, but IMB Advises Vigilance   1 comment

PiratesFile image

By MarEx 

The IMB Piracy Reporting Center, a division of the International Chamber of Commerce, has released its annual piracy report for 2015. Many trends are encouraging: the total number of reported attacks stayed level with the prior year, but hostage-taking and attackers’ possession of firearms are both down by nearly half.

Notably, no incidents were reported off Somalia last year. The shipping industry’s designated “high risk area” (HRA) off the Somali coast was reduced in size in December, following complaints by neighboring countries regarding the inclusion of their territorial seas. But the IMB cautions operators that they should maintain security measures while transiting Somali waters – even if the HRA warning line has been moved on the charts.

“Reportedly, momentum is building to do away with ship hardening measures including the carriage of armed security teams and speed recommendations . . . however, from all accounts, the situation ashore in Somalia is increasingly fragile and it is important that vessels continue to be vigilant as they sail through these waters,” the IMB said. Additionally, the IMB suggested that pirates may view the area recently removed from the HRA as a good place to find vulnerable vessels, on the theory that ships transiting that region will not feel the need to carry private armed security teams.

The agency also noted the perennially high risk in waters off Indonesia and Malaysia, where boardings of vessels under way are disproportionately high.

The IMB highlighted successful law enforcement and anti-piracy efforts in several regions, notably in Nigeria, where authorities arrested 1,600 alleged pirates and 50 vessels in 2015; and in Indonesia and Malaysia, where officials cooperated in a crackdown effort that resulted in the arrest of alleged pirate “mastermind” Heintje Lango, described as a leader of the hijacking of the tanker Okrim Harmony, and subdued two pirate gangs. The IMB credited the joint Indonesian-Malaysian effort with the lack of successful hijackings in the region in the final quarter of the year.

The year’s news was not all positive. Crew kidnapped by pirates rose from nine individuals in 2014 to 19 in 2015, and vessel boardings increased by about 10 percent. Further, while 2015 saw several noteworthy improvements, Friday’s hijacking and kidnapping off Nigeria highlighted the fact that piracy will remain a serious threat to shipping for the foreseeable future.

The IMB’s report also includes a detailed written account of each reported attack, including pirates’ armament, crew response and the outcome, and a breakdown of reported statitics by month, region, attack type and other metrics.

Posted February 6, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Conflicting Reports in Nigerian Separatist Hijacking   1 comment

PiratesFile image

By MarEx

Intelligence and maritime information firm Clearwater Vessel Tracking has confirmed the hijacking of the product tanker Leon Dias in the Gulf of Guinea. However, it remains unclear whether the Dias was the vessel recently attacked by Biafran separatists from Nigeria, with sources asserting that either one or two attacks took place late last week.

“A tanker [the Dias] was underway from Lome to Bata when the owners lost contact with their vessel . . . since [initial] reports were released the pirates have disembarked, kidnapping five crew members,” Clearwater told maritime media.

The captured crew of the Dias reportedly included the captain and chief engineer. One crewmember was shot and another wounded, but specifics of the injuries were not immediately available.

An unnamed Nigerian official informed local media and the Associated Press Tuesday that the Leon Dias was not the vessel attacked by Biafran separatists, and that she was hijacked in an unrelated attack and diverted to an oil terminal off Cotonou, Benin – a location confirmed by her stationary AIS signal on Tuesday afternoon, and in conflict with Clearwater’s understanding that the Dias was under way to Lagos.

The time of attack on the Leon Dias has been reported as the early hours of Sunday morning, differing with accounts of the Biafran separatist hijacking, which reportedly occurred Friday.

Nigerian officials told the Associated Press Tuesday that they were still in pursuit of the vessel being held by Biafran separatists.

Whether or not two unrelated attacks occurred, all accounts agree that last week, at least one tanker was hijacked off Nigeria by militants demanding the release of separatist movement leader Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra and head of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The organizational affiliation of the militants was not explicitly reported by Nigerian media, but some observers in the country have suggested that they could be affiliated with Niger Delta militants suspected in a string of recent pipeline bombings.

A spokesman, known only as General Ben and reportedly not a member of IPOB, said that the hijackers would take drastic action if their demands were not met swiftly. “We cannot wait till the end of the 31 days [deadline] to tell the federal government that we are serious. The vessel and the crew are in our custody . . . Any noise, any delay from government, we will blow up everything. We will blow the vessel and everybody in the vessel will go down,” he said, suggesting that the group intended to retain possession of the ship until negotiations were concluded.

General Ben added that the attack was for purposes of furthering the movement only.

Posted February 6, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Nigerian Separatist Group Hijacks Foreign Tanker   1 comment

PiratesFile image

By MarEx 

A group of Biafran separatists have hijacked an unnamed tanker off the coast of Nigeria, demanding the release of movement leader Nnamdi Kanu, the director of Radio Biafra and head of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The organizational affiliation of the hijackers was not explicitly reported by Nigerian media. A spokesman, known only as General Ben, said that the group would take drastic action if their demands were not met swiftly. “We cannot wait till the end of the 31 days [deadline] to tell the federal government that we are serious. The vessel and the crew are in our custody . . . Any noise, any delay from government, we will blow up everything. We will blow the vessel and everybody in the vessel will go down,” he said.

He added that the attack on the vessel was for purposes of furthering the movement only.

“We are not interested in the country that owns the vessel. What we know is that the vessel was coming to Nigeria to lift oil. We are not interested, once it is blown up, let the country and Nigeria resolve the matter,” he said. “[Kanu’s arrest] is provocative; hence we did not waste time to go into action. We are in support of the Biafra struggle. We will not retreat or surrender. The federal government might have taken our ultimatum as an empty threat. But, we will surprise them,” he said.

International shipping security analysts would not speculate on the vessel’s identity or crew, despite rumors. They suggested that it is possible that the vessel is no longer in the hijackers’ possession – that General Ben’s associates have taken the crew as hostages and abandoned the ship.

Nnamdi Kanu has been detained by Nigeria’s security services since November and stands accused of “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation.” He was recently denied bail; the judge cited a flight risk and described Mr. Kanu as a “threat to national security,” prompting protests by IPOB members and associates worldwide, including a large non-violent demonstration outside of the E.U. parliament building in Brussels.

Mr. Kanu’s organization has claimed that the region of Biafra, in Nigeria’s southeast, faces systematic discrimination from what it describes as a corrupt central government. Tension between the region and Nigerian authorities splits along ethnic lines and predates independence; it resulted in a civil war in the late 1960s.

Chief Sunny Okereafor, the national director of information for MASSOB, a self-described non-violent movement of Biafran separatists, said that Kanu’s arrest “is all about politics. There is no doubt that the federal government is playing politics with his detention . . . Since they don’t have evidence to prosecute him, they should set him free.”

Posted February 6, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Tanker Robbed by Pirates in Indian Port   1 comment

PiratesFile image courtesy EUNAVFOR

By MarEx 

On Wednesday night, in the port of Kandla, India, the Croatian product tanker Pomer was boarded by six armed pirates. Thanks to timely action by her crew, the attackers were kept out on deck, where they made off with no more than butterfly nuts and firefighting equipment.

“The material damage, due to rapid and professional response of the crew, [was limited to] part of the deck fire-fighting equipment and the butterfly nuts on the lids of the tanks,” said Dragutin Pavletić, director of the ship’s operator, Uljanik Plovidba. No crew were injured in the twenty-minute incident, and the pirates fled after taking the deck fixtures. The apparent motive in the attack was robbery rather than kidnapping or hijacking.

Croatian media reported that a crew member spotted the pirates as they boarded. He alerted the vessel’s master, Captain Jasmin Ganibegović, who sounded the general alarm and ordered crew on deck not to engage. The captain made a distress call to local authorities, but the attackers departed before law enforcement could arrive.

Pavletić added that like other operators, Uljanik Plovidba does not maintain private security contractors aboard its vessels outside of known danger zones like the coastal waters off Somalia. Armed security personnel are a legal liability within India’s territorial waters, with one high-profile prosecution resulting in long jail terms for security operators.

The 2011-built Pomer was listed at anchor off Kandla as of Thursday, and the firm said that the vessel’s voyage would continue on to Singapore.

Posted February 6, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS