Archive for April 2017

Somali Pirates Protest Quality of Indian Prison Food   1 comment

tirSailors on the INS Tir arrest the pirate crew of the Prantalay 11 (file image, 2011)

By MarEx 

The threat of Somali piracy has risen once again, with a new series of boardings and hijackings in the western Indian Ocean after a five-year lull. But even as another round of attacks begins, the last one is not yet fully resolved: Indian media report that more than 100 pirates who were arrested off the Horn of Africa in 2011 still have cases pending in the Indian judicial system.

On Tuesday, 15 Somali nationals pled guilty to charges of piracy in a court in Mumbai. In statements made through an interpreter, the pirates asked the court for deportation to Somalia or a reduced sentence, as they have been in prison for six years.

The men were captured in January 2011 when the Indian Navy pursued and sank the Thai trawler Prantalay 14. The pirates had hijacked and repurposed the trawler as a mother ship, and had used the vessel (and her crew) to support their criminal enterprise for 10 months. Indian forces arrested a second mother ship, the Prantalay 11, in the same area a few days later. The location of the arrests – the Lakshadweep Islands, about 1,400 nm from the Horn of Africa – was a demonstration of the sweeping range of Somali piracy at its peak.

Bon Jhon Ali, a confessed pirate who learned Hindi during his time in jail, said that there were originally 25 in their complement. Ten died before they could be captured: their vessel caught fire when gunfire ignited fuel drums on the upper deck, and some of the pirates drowned when they were forced to abandon ship.

Ali’s main complaint about his time in prison was the quality of the food. “We are used to eating fish but we don’t get it in jail. We are unable to digest jail food, we don’t like it,” he said (as reported by the Free Press Journal and the Indian Express).

Police reports from the time of the arrest suggested that four crewmembers of the Prantalay 14 died from malnutrition and lack of medical treatment during their time in captivity.

Posted April 27, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Duterte Threatens to “Eat” Abu Sayyaf Fighters Alive   1 comment

duterteFile image

By MarEx 

On Sunday, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte threatened to eat members of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf if they were captured alive. The group has abducted dozens of seafarers over the past year, and it has developed a reputation for torturing and beheading its kidnapping victims. Duterte suggested that he was capable of similar methods.

“If you want me to be an animal, I’m used to that. We’re just the same,” he said, in comments translated by Manila-based outlet BusinessWorld. “I can even eat you alive, just give me salt and vinegar . . . I told the military, don’t sleep, find them and kill them. I want them dead. Don’t give them to me alive.”

Former president Fidel Ramos criticized Duterte’s threats in an interview Tuesday. “This must be avoided especially when you are talking to our young people,” he told ANC. He said that he supports Duterte, but the president must “act like a president all the time.”

Duterte’s rhetoric mirrored his statements regarding his administration’s campaign against drug trafficking. Thousands of suspected drug dealers have died in encounters with the police and with unidentified vigilantes since Duterte took office, and the president has broadly encouraged the police and the public to kill suspected criminals. “Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun – you have my support,” he told a rally last June.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission has urged Philippine prosecutors to investigate Duterte for his own involvement in possible human rights violations. Despite the allegations (and his own public struggle with prescription drug abuse), Duterte remains highly popular in the Philippines.

Four more Abu Sayyaf militants killed on Bohol

On Saturday, soldiers and police killed four more suspected Abu Sayyaf militants in a running firefight on the island of Bohol. A small squad of suspected terrorists has been on the run since last week, when authorities were tipped off to the militants’ presence. The Philippine military believes that the group intended to infiltrate the popular tourist destination in order to kidnap more civilians – a cause for alarm, as Bohol is hundreds of miles from the group’s usual area of operation. Four fighters and four security personnel were killed when government forces first made contact with the group.

Two more suspects remain on the run on Bohol, and in a briefing at the presidential palace on Tuesday, AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said that the fugitives were surrounded. “They don’t pose any serious threat anymore . . . Because of their long exposure to the elements, what they are doing now is to fight for their survival,” he said.

President Duterte has offered a bounty of $20,000 for information leading to the capture of the remaining militants on Bohol, “dead or alive.”

Abu Sayyaf beheads kidnapped soldier

On Monday, the Abu Sayyaf Group beheaded a fighter of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a former rebel group that has joined the AFP in the fight against the terrorist organization.

The body of the soldier – staff sergeant Anni Siraji – was found in Patikul, Sulu. The AFP condemned the execution and expressed its condolences to Siraji’s family. “We were saddened by that news and we express our sympathies to the family,” said spokesman Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, speaking to ABS CBN. “As it was, we understand that it’s all part of our jobs as soldiers and protector of our people.

Posted April 27, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Pirates Attack Tanker Near Somali Coast   1 comment

Bullet lodged in the bulkhead of the Costina’s wheelhouse (EUNAVFOR)

By MarEx 

On Saturday, a product tanker was attacked at 05.7 N 048.9 E, just six nm off the coast of Somalia’s Mudug region. The attack was 30 nm northeast of Hobyo, a small port town that was once the home base of pirate leader “Afweyne’s” criminal enterprise.

According to the IMB and the UKMTO, six to ten armed pirates in a launch approached the underway tanker and opened fire. The master transmitted a distress signal and began evasive maneuvers, but the skiff continued to pursue and harass the vessel for another two hours. The pirates eventually departed and the crew and vessel are confirmed safe. One crewmember was injured during the chase.

The reports did not identify the vessel, but EUNAVFOR reports that it received a distress call at about the same time from the UAE-owned product tanker Costina. The Spanish Navy vessel ESPS Galicia was about 14 nm away, and she changed course and launched a Sea King helicopter to respond. EUNAVFOR said that the pirates fled as the Galicia approached.

Galicia’s boarding team found that the Costina’s superstructure had bullet holes from the attack, but the ship was still in suitable condition to continue to her next port of call.

EUNAVFOR boarding team member treats an injured crewmember

Boarding team departs (EUNAVFOR)

The Costina’s AIS signal was last picked up off Yemen on April 19, broadcasting Mogadishu as her destination. The reports did not discuss whether there were private maritime security contractors on board.

Somali pirates have recently shown an ability to mount hijacking expeditions far out into the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, and inshore traffic might be an easier target. EU NAVFOR spokesperson Commander Jacqui Sherriff said that “this attack again highlights the need for vigilance and adherence to the self-protection measures as laid down in Best Management Practices (BMP)4. It is crucial that Somali pirates are denied opportunities to attack vessels.”

The 1984-built Costina is flagged in Sierra Leone, and has not had a PSC inspection recorded in Equasis since 2007.

Food shortages may be contributing to resurgence of piracy

In remarks at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti on Sunday, head of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Thomas Waldhauser suggested that drought and food shortages in Somalia may be a contributing factor in the recent pirate attacks in the region.

“Some of the vessels that have been taken under hijacking have had some food and some oil on them. Moreover, these particular ships have been very small in statute [sic] and really a lucrative target for pirates,” Waldhauser said. He stopped short of suggesting that the recent uptick in attacks constitutes a “trend,” but he said that U.S. forces will “continue to watch.”

The U.N. began warning of a catastrophic famine in February – “a famine on a scale we cannot imagine, if we don’t act right know,” according to U.N. humanitarian coordinator Peter de Clercq. de Clerq said that his agency had already received anecdotal evidence of deaths in Somaliland as a result of the drought.

The last round of famine in Somalia killed an estimated 260,000 people, and de Clerq said that this time could be worse. “We are seeing growing similarities to the conditions that led to the famine in 2011 though, as numbers are showing, a much larger percentage of the country is at risk this time around,” de Clerq said.

The potential impact of the drought extends across the region: the U.N. World Food Program suggests that about 20 million people in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia may be vulnerable to starvation within the next six months.


Posted April 25, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Pirate Shootout Video Goes Viral   1 comment

By MarEx 

A video posted on YouTube on Thursday showing private security guards firing at Somali pirates has gone viral.

The footage may not be recent, but the region has seen a recent resurgence in incidents.

Incidents of Somali piracy have increased in recent months. The hijack of the tanker Aris 13, on March 13, was the first reported hijack of a vessel covered by IMO regulations by Somali pirates since the tanker Smyrni in May 2012.

Oceans Beyond Piracy’s analysis indicates the number of reported failed attacks and suspicious incidents rose in 2016. Armed security teams deterred 11 attacks in 2016.

Earlier this month, foreign naval forces reportedly shot dead two Somali pirates in international waters. The pirates were attempting to hijack an unidentified ship near the Gulf of Aden on Saturday. Another pirate was injured during the incident.

Posted April 25, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Stowaway Gets Hand Caught in Hawse Pipe   Leave a comment

hawse pipefile photo

By MarEx 

A Tanzanian teenager caught his hand in the hawse pipe of a ship he was attempting to board in South Africa.

Herald Live reports the 19-year-old was attempting to board Panamanian bulk carrier MI Harmony in Durban close to midnight. His hand was crushed and partly amputated as a result of the motion of the vessel‚ trapping him. He has now been taken to hospital.

It is unclear why he was trying to board a ship headed to Maputo‚ Mozambique, but he may have been trying to make his way back to Tanzania.

Posted April 25, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Swift Acting Crews Reduce Asian Pirate Attacks   1 comment


By MarEx 

The number of piracy incidents in Asia has dropped in the first quarter this year, compared to the same period in 2016, and ReCAAP ISC praises the swift action of crews and responding military forces.

For the first three months of this year, there were 15 incidents of piracy and armed robbery and five attempts, compared to the 17 incidents during the same period in 2016.

ReCAAP ISC says the drop in the number of incidents is an indication of successful efforts by crew in deterring boarding by pirates. For example, on March 5, general cargo ship, Phu An 268 carrying 2,700 tons of rice departed My Thoi port, Vietnam, for Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia. At about 1600 hrs, a skiff with six pirates on board approached and followed her for around 1.5 hours.

The master and the crew raised the alarm, increased speed and activated the water hose to prevent the pirates from boarding. The master informed the Malaysian authorities immediately, and in response, the Malaysian Royal Navy deployed vessels immediately to the location of the incident to provide assistance and escort Phu An 268 safely to Sandakan port.

In another case, on February 22 at 1345hrs, bulk carrier Donghae Star was underway in the vicinity of about 37.8 nautical miles northwest of Littoral Monitoring Station Bongao, Tawi-Tawi when the ship sighted three fast boats painted in black with five perpetrators on board wearing black clothes. The boats were chasing after the ship at a speed of about 20.5 knots.

Immediately, the crew contacted the Philippine Navy by radio. The Navy deployed patrol vessels to the location, and at about 1502 hrs, the three speed boats slowed down and stopped their chase. The Navy vessels continued to patrol the area and alerted other commercial ships in the area.

Incidents Underway and at Anchorage

Of the 20 incidents reported during January-March 2017, eight incidents occurred on board ships while underway, and 12 incidents occurred on board ships while at anchor/berth.

One incident involved the death of two crew and abduction of five crew for ransom (Giang Hai), two incidents involved the abduction of crew (Fishing Banca and Super Shuttle Tug 1), and one incident reported the threatening of crew by the pirates who sighted them (Silver Express). The remaining 11 incidents reported that the crew was not hurt or there was no information available on the condition of the crew.

Nine incidents reported the loss of ship stores and equipment, such as mooring rope, paint, portable welding machine, electric drill, electric hacksaw, fire hydrant caps and forecastle bell. All these incidents occurred on board ships while at ports and anchorages.

The rate of attacks improved at ports and anchorages in Asia, particularly India. One incident was reported in India during January-March 2017 compared to 10 incidents reported there during the same period in 2016. However, four incidents were reported in Bangladesh compared to zero incidents during the same period in 2016.

The continued occurrence of incidents involving the abduction of crew from ships while underway in the Sulu Celebes Sea and waters off Eastern Sabah, East Malaysia continues to be a concern. During January-March 2017, six incidents including three abduction incidents and three attempted incidents were reported to the ReCAAP ISC by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Two abducted crew members from Super Shuttle Tug 1 and five abducted crew of Serudong 3 were rescued by local Philippine agencies. At the end of March, 58 crew had been abducted over the past year, 37 were released and 21 remain in captivity.

The ReCAAP ISC reiterates its advice that all ships re-route from the area, where possible. The ReCAAP ISC also emphasized the importance of collective and shared responsibility among all stakeholders including the littoral States’ enforcement agencies and the shipping industry. More needs to be done to strengthen regional cooperation and coordination among the littoral States in conducting coordinated patrols, maintaining stringent enforcement and apprehending the perpetrators, says the agency.

The report is available here.

Posted April 25, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Eight Tug Crewmembers Kidnapped Off Nigeria   1 comment

fileFile image

By MarEx 

On Wednesday morning, pirates boarded an unnamed “offshore tug” in the Gulf of Guinea and kidnapped eight crewmembers.

According to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre, the Nigerian Navy responded to the incident but the attackers managed to escape with their captives. One crewmember was injured in the attack and was evacuated by helicopter.

It was the tenth serious incident in the Gulf of Guinea this year – and the second within an hour. About 45 minutes earlier and about 50 nm further offshore, nine pirates in a skiff approached a tanker and opened fire. The tanker’s crew sounded the alarm, started the fire pumps and brought non-essential personnel into the citadel, while the bridge team put on more turns and conducted evasive maneuvers. The skiff aborted the attack.

Hijackings off Somalia and on the southeastern margin of the Sulu Sea have gained most of the attention on piracy in recent months, but the waters off the Niger River Delta are still a dangerous region for maritime kidnappings. The IMB warns that Gulf of Guinea pirates are often well armed, violent and capable, with the means to carry out attacks up to 170 nm off the coast. The most serious incidents involve multi-day hijackings, cargo theft, crew injuries and (increasingly) the abduction of seafarers for ransom. In the waters off Brass, Bonny Island and Port Harcourt – the area of Wednesday’s incidents – the IMB warns that there has been “a noticeable increase in attacks / hijackings / kidnappings of crews.” The center advises mariners to take additional precautions in these waters.

Posted April 22, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS