Archive for May 2016

Indonesian Forces Intercept Hijacked Ship   1 comment


File image

By MarEx 

AFP reports that on Monday, Indonesian forces rescued a Singapore-flagged vessel that had been hijacked off of Borneo. Nine suspected pirates were detained for questioning, and 20 crew and one passenger were released.

No injuries or damage were reported. Navy spokesman Edi Sucipto said that the motive for the attack was to steal some 50,000 gallons of oil by transferring it to another vessel.

Authorities grew suspicious when they noticed that a ship had disappeared off of AIS and radar, then reappeared elsewhere transmitting a different vessel name. They sent a patrol ship and halted the hijacking in progress.

Indonesia has been a hot spot for maritime piracy for years; in recent months, it has seen an uptick from a new source – attacks by Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, which is based out of an archipelago south of Mindanao, the Philippines, but has begun hijackings and kidnappings in Indonesian and Malaysian waters as well.

Authorities did not implicate Abu Sayyaf in Monday’s attack.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines recently reached an agreement for joint naval patrols to combat the threat. In addition, the Indonesian National Shipowners Association has recommended bow and stern watches when traveling through areas within Abu Sayyaf’s range of attack, plus the use of ship convoys – a practice typically associated with wartime operations.

Abu Sayyaf is notorious for kidnappings, backed up by a willingness to execute captives, and has earned millions of dollars in ransoms. It has acquired modern equipment with its ill-gotten gains; Philippine authorities also say that its earnings have given it the means to employ a sizeable fraction of the local population on its island strongholds, making it difficult to combat the group on its own terrain.

The group recently released 10 Indonesian crewmembers captured in the hijacking of a tug. Sailors’ Society chaplain Muhartono Tito, who is based in the Indonesian port of Banjarmasin, provided welfare assistance to the seafarers’ families during the crew’s five weeks in captivity.

“They were incredibly worried about the safety of their loved ones. When news broke that the terrorists had freed the men, I called their family members who were incredibly grateful,” he said.

An unnamed crewmember told Sailors’ Society that “we were very stressed because they frequently threatened to slit our throats.”

“Although they are all home safely, it is a real possibility that both the seafarers and their families will be suffering from stress after this traumatic incident,” Muhartono said. “I have offered counselling and have asked the ship owner to give the seafarers a grace of period of a month to recover.”

Despite their ordeal, the seafarers are reportedly in good physical health. Not all have been so lucky: their release comes a week after Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian businessman John Ridsdel.

According to authorities, Abu Sayyaf are still holding at least 11 people hostage.


Posted May 10, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Piracy: Indonesia Recommends Double Watch, Convoy   1 comment


By MarEx 

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet on Thursday to discuss joint maritime security patrols in the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas after a spate of kidnappings. Joint patrols could involve ships from the three navies patrolling together and crossing into each other’s territorial waters.

Budhi Halim, Secretary-General of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association has recommended that crews should maintain a double watch (bow and stern) when travelling through high risk areas, reports Channel News Asia. “Secondly, they must move in a convoy, don’t travel alone.”

Many vessels are also employing armed security guards, said Hanafi Rustandi, Chairman of the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Usually the Abu Sayyaf, the hijackers use small boats which can fit only four to five people, and the armed guards will be able to deal with them, he said.

Until now, the extra cost of employing guards has deterred some ship managers from using them. The Indonesian Shipowners Association provides some assistance to the local industry, as it has a protection and indemnity fund to cover ransom money paid to kidnappers.

Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines released 10 Indonesian seafarers on Sunday, ending a month-long ordeal during which a kidnapped Canadian held by the same group was beheaded after a ransom deadline passed.

The growing frequency of maritime attacks has affected coal trade between the Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, and the Philippines, which, relies on Jakarta for 70 percent of its coal imports.

Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion, is one of the most brutal militant groups in Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines.

Outgoing President Benigno Aquino has promised to devote his remaining days in office to crushing the militants. Fourteen rebels have been killed in bombing of the stronghold of Jolo island since Tuesday, a military spokesman said.

Since 2006, the United States has provided nearly $200 million in military aid to strengthen naval forces of the three Southeast Asian countries to combat piracy and militancy.

Posted May 10, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

CMF: Al Qaeda in Yemen Poses Risks to Shipping   1 comment

YemenAl Qaeda file image via social media

By Reuters 

Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch remains a powerful force and poses a growing risk to merchant ships in vital waterways nearby despite efforts by Yemeni government forces and their allies to push back the group, a top officer in an international naval force said.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) confirmed on Saturday it had withdrawn from the southern Yemeni port of‎ Mukalla – a week after Yemeni government and Emirati soldiers seized the‎ city that was used by the Islamist militants to amass a fortune.

Captain William Nault, Chief of Staff with the multi-national Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), told Reuters ‎the gains by government forces were “heartening” and a “setback” for AQAP, but added the group still had capabilities due to the ongoing civil war.

‎”AQAP has taken advantage of that chaos and moved into the void. In doing so they have gotten stronger‎,” said Nault of CMF, whose mission includes counter-piracy and counter-terrorism in the region.

AQAP has exploited conflict between Yemeni government loyalists backed by a Gulf Arab coalition and Houthi rebels allied to Iran and has sought to carve out a quasi state.

The group still controls the Arabian Sea towns of Zinjibar and Shaqra, about 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Mukalla.

That coastal area is close to the Bab al-Mandab gateway though which nearly four million barrels of oil are shipped daily to Europe, the United States and Asia.

Nault said ‎AQAP had a “stated capability and intent to conduct a maritime terrorist attack”, which was something “we look at very hard”‎.

“I would assess that as getting worse over the last year instead of better,” he said on a visit to London.

“That threat would be against a soft target meaning an industry ship passing or going in and out of … the Red Sea towards the eastern end of Yemen.”

Yemen has a 1,900-km (1,180 mile) coastline that also juts into the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, a vast area to police given international navies were already stretched combating Somali piracy in the region, which had been contained in recent years.

AQAP has planned several foiled bombing attempts on‎ Western-bound airliners and claimed credit for the 2015 attack‎ at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices in Paris.

Al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole warship in October 2000 when it was docked in Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors. Two years later an al Qaeda attack damaged a French tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

Nault said there was also the possibility of piracy re-emerging around Yemen, which may involve militants. “That is my concern – will we see a resurgence of piracy-like activity … it might be something else in that area around Yemen.”

Posted May 10, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Video: Somali Piracy: Resetting the Stage?   1 comment

Posted May 2, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

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Posted May 1, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS

Two More Crewmembers Kidnapped by Nigerian Pirates   1 comment


By MarEx 

[Brief] On Friday, the ICC’s IMB Piracy Reporting Center listed multiple attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Guinea, including the kidnapping of two crewmembers. All incidents occurred in the vicinity of the Niger Delta.

On April 20, 100 nm off of Brass, Nigeria, pirates boarded an offshore supply vessel and kidnapped two individuals. The remaining crew retreated safely to the ship’s citadel.

On April 19, seven armed pirates approached a tanker underway and attempted to board. The crew used water hoses to deter boarding. Due to crew actions, evasive maneuvers, the vessel’s high freeboard and razor wire along her bulwarks, the pirates called off their attack.

The Maritime Trade Information Sharing Center – Gulf of Guinea reported a similar, unsuccessful attack on another vessel 30 nm away on the same day.

On April 18, pirates attacked a vessel off of Brass and attempted to board. Armed guards on the vessel repelled the attack with gunfire and the pirates withdrew.

The security firm Clearwater told World Maritime News Friday that there had been a total of six attacks in the area within the span of a day.

Posted May 1, 2016 by rrts in -NEWS