Archive for March 2016

Kidnapped OSV Crewmembers Released in Nigeria   1 comment

LibertyFile image courtesy Bourbon Offshore

By MarEx 

Bourbon Offshore has announced that the two abducted crewmembers of the offshore supply vessel Bourbon Liberty 251 have been released, and are safe and uninjured.

“For obvious reasons of confidentiality, Bourbon shall not make any further comment,” the firm said.

The two crewmen had been kidnapped in an attack on February 23; the remaining ten crewmembers on board had escaped, and returned with the Liberty 251 back to the port of Omme, Nigeria, near Port Harcourt.

The kidnapped men were of Russian and Nigerian nationalities, Bourbon said. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Russian crewmember, Ivan Rudny, had been released, along with an unnamed colleague. “Rudny is in good health,” the ministry said. “In the near future, he will come back to Russia.”

Neither source mentioned the terms of the release, but security consultants PGI Intelligence suggest that Nigerian pirates are increasingly turning to kidnapping and ransom as a means of raising funds, as the profitability of hijacking tankers and stealing oil or fuel is in decline.

In April 2015, three crewmembers were kidnapped from Bourbon’s light crewboat Surfer 1440; they were released in May. Unofficial reports suggest that a ransom was paid to secure their safe return.

In late 2013, a Nigerian militant group announced that it had been paid a $2 million ransom for the safe return of two kidnapped American crewmembers of the Edison Chouest OSV C-Retriever; U.S. government officials confirmed that a ransom payment secured the release in that incident, although they did not disclose the amount of the payment.

The pace of hostage-taking in Nigerian piracy incidents appears to be on the rise, with four instances so far in 2016 – the same as the number of kidnappings for the entirety of 2014.

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Posted March 28, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea Sign Anti-Piracy Deal   1 comment

piracy

By Reuters 

Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea signed an agreement to establish combined patrols to bolster security in the Gulf of Guinea, which has been plagued by piracy in the last few years, a spokesman for Nigeria’s president said on Wednesday.

Garba Shehu said the agreement, which comes amid the backdrop of a rise in pipeline attacks in the oil-producing Niger Delta region of Africa’s biggest crude producer, was signed late on Tuesday by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

Pirate attacks in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, a significant source of oil, cocoa and metals for world markets, pose a threat to shipping companies. Pirates target oil tankers, usually wanting hostages for ransom and to sell stolen fuel.

“The conclusion and signing of the agreement is expected to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea and help in curbing maritime crimes such as piracy, crude oil theft, sabotage of oil rigs and arms smuggling,” said Shehu.

In a statement, Shehu said the agreement, signed at the end of Buhari’s two-day visit to Equatorial Guinea’s capital, Malabo, established “a combined Maritime Policing and Security Patrol Committee.”

The creeks and waterways of the Niger Delta are connected to the Gulf of Guinea.

Earlier this week Nigeria’s information minister vowed that the government would prosecute those who attack the country’s oil pipelines.

Security experts say pirates have emerged from militant groups in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta, such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.

Posted March 24, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Somali Militants Seize Puntland Port   1 comment

Somali ArmySomali National Army

By Reuters 

Somali al Shabaab fighters have seized a small port in the semi-autonomous Puntland region, the latest sign of a resurgence in activity by the Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa nation.

A series of offensives last year by the African Union force AMISOM and the Somali National Army had driven al Shabaab out of major strongholds in the southern region of Somalia.

At the time, officials said some al Shabaab fighters had moved north to the Puntland region, beyond AMISOM’s area of operation. In recent weeks, al Shabaab has also retaken smaller towns and launched deadly attacks in the southern region.

“Al Shabaab fighters with several boats captured Garad town,” Hassan Mohamed, governor for Mudug region of Puntland said, adding that the attack took place on Monday. “We do not want to say publicly how we will react.”

The head of the local authority in the port town of Garad, Abdinur Abdullahi, said that al Shabaab with foreign fighters had met local elders, saying they would “capture many places and fight non-Muslims.”

“Most of the residents have fled,” he said, adding al Shabaab had been building up forces in the Galgala Hills, echoing comments previously made by officials in Puntland.

There was no immediate comment from al Shabaab.

Garad is a former haven for pirates, who had used the natural port to mount raids on commercial ships passing along nearby shipping lanes leading to and from the Red Sea.

An international naval effort has largely driven the Somali pirates away. There have been only a few reports of hijackings in the past two or three years, mostly involving fishing boats not the major tankers or commercial vessels targeted before.

“Without any gunfire, we were surprised to see al Shabaab fighters here,” said resident Mohamed Abdullahi by phone, before phone lines were shut off.

Al Shabaab also controls Haradhere, another port town in Puntland. Residents said that a curfew was imposed on that town on Sunday night that was followed by unusually active movement in the port, fuelling talk that al Shabaab was importing weapons and possibly fighters from abroad.

The Puntland coast lies near Yemen, where conflict is raging and al Qaeda is active. Al Shabaab is aligned to Al Qaeda.

 

Posted March 20, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Seaman Guard Ohio: “Foreign Mercenaries”   1 comment

prison

By Philipho Yuan

In an radio interview on BBC World Service news this week, a former Indian seafarer defended his country’s imprisonment of the men on board the armory vessel Seaman Guard Ohio with the defense that soldiers sail on naval ships not merchant ships.

He said: “The police and other law enforcement authorities in India would have reasonable cause to suspect an alleged merchant ship which looked very much like a war ship, certainly not supposed to be where it was and, most of all, carrying a whole lot of arms and ammo.”

The ship was not in a piracy zone, he says. “The piracy zone is the horn of Africa not the southern tip of India… gun running is not exactly unknown in the Indian Ocean.”

On October 12, 2013, the 35 crew and guards on the Seaman Guard Ohio were arrested in India’s territorial waters for possession of illegal arms and environmental pollution. Indian authorities arrested six British nationals, three Ukrainians, fourteen Estonians as well as twelve Indians after they boarded the ship.

The men were thrown in jail and ordered to stand trial for crimes against the state. While all charges were eventually dropped in July 2014 by the High Court of India, the men’s passports were confiscated so that they could not leave the country legally.

After almost a year of detention and living in limbo, the Supreme Court of India upheld the charges and remanded the men for trial, and, on January 11, 2016, after a brief trial all of the men were sentenced to five years of hard labor.

A final appeal is scheduled to be heard on June 1, 2016; meanwhile, the men remain imprisoned in an Indian jail.

In this week’s program, the BBC notes that media coverage in India has tended towards an assumption of guilt for the men that were on board Seaman Guard Ohio.

David Hammond, CEO of the charity Human Rights at Sea was also interviewed on the program, and he responded to the commentator’s reference to the private maritime security guards on board as “foreign mercenaries.”

“The advent of these floating armories and organizations that provide armed guards to global shipping is well known,” he said. “The reality is that, at the time of their detention in 2013, we were coming out of the end of what was a very large piracy problem. We can understand the Indian reaction to it when they have a history of terrorism within their borders and external to their borders, but the reality is that we’ve got to deal with the facts in a court of law.”

Hammond is convinced that government authorities in the U.K. and around the world are working behind the scenes to do all they can for the men and their families, but “a basic tenet of international law is that states don’t interfere with other state’s business, particularly when looking at legal matters.”

Hammond says it is important that the legal rights and representation of the security guards on board are not separated from the rights of the crew. Following a European Parliament Motion for a Resolution on the issue on 19 January, Hammond added: “We urge the European Parliament to take full consideration of the necessity of equal legal representation and support of both the guards and the crew.”

Human Rights at Sea is fully supporting the efforts of other welfare organisations involved in the matter, including the pastoral care and support being provided by the Mission to Seafarers.

Human Rights at Sea, he says, has pushed that the narrative on which the men are convicted must be correct in law. “I don’t think we can do a lot more at this stage than show that the facts don’t necessarily fit the judgement,” says Hammond.

Human Rights at Sea has prepared a case study here.

The BBC program can be heard here (13:35 – 20:05).

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

Posted March 14, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS