Archive for May 2017

Somali Pirates Hijack Iranian Fishing Vessel   1 comment

fileHijacked dhow (file image)

By MarEx 

On Tuesday, Somali pirates captured an Iranian fishing boat for use as a mother ship for attacks on larger merchant vessels, according to the mayor of a port town in Puntland. In the past, Somali pirates often captured fishing vessels and their crews in order to extend their range, and they successfully operated as far out as the west coast of India.

Ali Shire, the top official in the town of Haabo, northern Puntland, informed Reuters of the hijacking. “The Iranian fishing vessel does not have a license [to fish] in Puntland,” he said. Somali pirates frequently cite illegal, unlicensed and unregulated fishing by foreign vessels as a source of grievance.

Iranian state media did not provide additional information on the attacks, but noted that the Iranian Navy has patrolled the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 in order to provide security for the nation’s merchant shipping. In April, the Iranian frigate Sabalan and the logistics vessel Lavan took over the patrol route from the destroyer Naqdi and the fleet auxiliary Tonb.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been on an upswing in recent months after a five-year lull, motivated by famine and poverty and enabled by reductions in maritime security expenditures. Many of the recent incidents have affected smaller vessels on Somali itineraries, but attacks on international shipping (like the hijackings of the OS 35 and the Aris 13) show that the pirates have retained the ability to strike far from the Somali coast.

Posted May 26, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Has Somali Piracy Returned?   1 comment

Recent piracy incidents (one additional hijacking off Puntland not shown)

By Lisa Otto

Since the hijacking of an oil tanker off the coast of Alula, Puntland on March 13 and its release without ransom three days later, the media has voiced concerns as to whether Somali piracy maybe about to resurge. This recent incident and those that have followed it provide an opportunity to look back at Somali piracy: what caused it in the first place? What caused it to abate and where we are now?

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre’s website indicates that, at the time of writing, three vessels have been hijacked since the beginning of the year, while another has been boarded and one other fired upon. These incidents have all taken place within the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast, per the image generated from the Bureau’s live piracy map (above).

Aside from the attack on March 13, a dhow was hijacked off the coast of Eyl, Puntland on March 23 with 20 crew members being taken hostage. Thirteen were released in a skiff while the remainder of the crew was released on March 26. It appears no ransom was paid, but the pirates made off with food and diesel. On April 1, a third hijacking took place off Bosaso, also in Puntland area, where 13 crew members were hijacked within Somali territorial waters. Somali forces managed to free the crew and escorted the vessel to its next port of call. On April 8, a tanker was boarded from a skiff in the Gulf of Aden. The crew retreated to the citadel and when local authorities arrived the following day the pirates were gone. On April 14, a tanker came under fire off the eastern coast of Yemen and, the next day, another tanker was fire at in the Gulf of Aden just south of the central Yemeni coastline. On April 22, an attempted attack was made on a tanker in Somali waters, with the tanker being chased for two hours. A warship came the vessel’s assistance following a distress call. One crew member was reported as injured.

The news reports of these attacks have been startling because there has not been a successful attack in the region by pirates for more than four years. The lack of attacks in the region has made it difficult for international forces to justify continued naval deployments in the Gulf of Aden. While this will be borne out by the official figures reported by the International Maritime Organisation and the International Maritime Bureau, it does not take into consideration the attacks perpetrated against regional shipping, which suggest that Somali piracy is not resurging – it never went away in the first place.

Why would this be the case? The answer is that the conditions that led to the rise of piracy in 2008 have not changed significantly enough for Somalis to halt their attacks on merchant vessels. In addition, the criminal organizations that have perpetrated piracy are still present. Furthermore, the Somali government is unable to assist because of poverty and the lack of economic development. These are persistent challenges for the democratic government elected in 2012, which is still challenged by drought and famine. Importantly, fishing, which is the traditional livelihood of many Somalis, remains threatened by illegal fishing in the nation’s territorial waters.

The media also suggest that commerical shipping has relaxed its preventive measures, including maintaining higher speeds while transiting these waters and employing armed guards to protect their ships. Unfortunately, these methods are not always used because they negatively impact profit margins. There are now fewer naval deployments in the Gulf of Aden because these are expensive as well.

As a recent article in the Economist pointed out: “A lack of international [rather than local] victims had made it easy for the world’s attention to move elsewhere. But until piracy ceases to be an attractive business opportunity it will remain a plague.”

While there has been a decrease in the numbers of pirate incidents in the region, vessel operators still need to use precautionary measures for the safety of their crew and safe passage through the region. The international community needs to focus on the improvement of socio-economic conditions in Somalia, which will improve the lives of the Somali people. It is also vitally important to address illegal fishing and ensure that local authorities will prosecute those people caught.  Vessels must also continue to implement Best Management Practice (BMP4) for preventive and evasive measures during transit in Somali piracy waters.

Dr. Lisa Otto is a research associate at Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR).To learn more about CTPSR’s research on maritime security, please contact the author at

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

Posted May 26, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Keeping Children Out of Piracy   1 comment


By MarEx 

A first step has been taken to raise awareness of the horrific abuse of children in piracy with the release of a handbook for the maritime security sector.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative began academic research, in collaboration with Human Rights at Sea, the Dalhousie University Marine Piracy Project and the 100 Series Rules, in 2011. Following on from that, in 2016, Darin Reeves, Director of Training for the Dallaire Initiative, led their creation of Children Affected by Maritime Piracy: A Handbook for Maritime Security Sector Actors.

On behalf of the Dallaire Initiative, Darin explains how children are involved, how their recruitment is intertwined with terrorism and how adults confronting them can suffer the consequences.

What is the scale of children’s involvement in piracy?

Currently there is very little objective evidence, in large part due to a lack of reporting and research. It is much the same when it comes to estimating the number of child soldiers around the world.

However, based on evidence from pirates detained off the coast of Somalia, a large number of those directly engaged in piracy are under the age of 18. In fact, it is estimated that in 2014 up to 20 percent of all maritime pirates apprehended off the coast of East Africa were under the age of 18.

Within the Handbook, we quoted Rajat Pandit at The Times of India:

“In 2011, the Indian Navy announced that 25 of 61 recently arrested pirates were under the age of 15, with four of them estimated to be just 11 years old, while reports from the area consistently tell of an increased use of children to commit acts of piracy as older, established pirates remained ashore while recruiting and sending children out to sea to continue attacking ships and their crews.”

We also quoted the 6719th meeting of the U.N. Security Council, held on 22 February 2012, where it was reported:

“The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict has reported a trend showing increased use of children recruited to seize ships for ransom, and that former child soldiers were noted to move from Islamist extremist groups to become pirates. This trend was underscored in a report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in 2012, citing strong evidence of cooperation between Al-Shabaab terrorists and pirates.”

How is terrorism intertwined with piracy?

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted strong evidence of a link between Al-Shabaab rebels and maritime pirates in a 2012 report to the U.N. Security Council. This symbiotic relationship is not one of mutual support, rather it reflects in part the desire by both parties to use a common “resource” – children – to take part in their activities.

The fact that maritime piracy in a particular area may ebb and flow is of no surprise; what surprised us through our research is the link between this activity and the resurgence of armed conflict ashore.

For example, following the armed entry by Kenya into Somalia in 2011 to attack Al-Shabaab strongholds, the rate of maritime piracy attacks – and the attendant use of children – decreased. Subsequent and recent attacks by African and American forces against Al-Shabaab weakened its position, and a rise in maritime piracy was noted.

It is therefore likely that as such armed groups ashore who use children as soldiers are reduced, the community of maritime pirates seizes the opportunity to recruit and use these very same children – in some cases further abusing those youths who have only just been disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated back to their families, communities and societies.

How is a “child” defined, especially in cultures where children often work at ages typically younger than Western cultures?

This is a question that defies universal acceptance. As a result, in writing the Handbook I adapted the Paris Principles and Guidelines definition of Child Soldiers to all “Child[ren] Associated with Maritime Piracy as:

“any person below 18 years of age who is or has been recruited or used by a maritime armed group or criminal organization in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as sailors, fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities.”

Beyond actively participating in hijackings, a child may assist adult confederates in various auxiliary capacities. For example, Andrew Mwangura, director of the Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, has noted that young Somali girls are often hired by pirates to cook, clean and guard hostages.

In April 2011, Spiegel International published a story that aptly illustrates the reality of child recruitment, when it wrote on the recruitment of Abdiwali, a Somali child pirate who was apprehended during the liberation of the MV Taipan and subsequently put on trial in Germany.

Abdiwali said that he had to begin fending for himself at the age of 10. At 13, he worked as a fisherman and piloted a small motorboat, where he was paid $2-3 a day. He learned to drive a fishing boat. They would spend weeks at sea and when they returned, his wages were barely enough to survive for the next week.

One day, a man offered him $500 for a better job. It wasn’t until he was on board the dhow that they told him that a ship [the MV Taipan] was to be hijacked. Hunger and poverty, he said, had motivated him to commit this crime and he never asked himself whether he wanted to be a part of it. It had all seemed self-evident to him.

Why are children chosen over adults?

A number of experts in the world of private maritime security agree that children are frequently employed as interlocutors during ransom negotiations because they are widely perceived as being irrational and unpredictable. Somali pirates have discovered that insurance companies and hostages’ family members can be frightened into paying a higher ransom if a child acts as the pirates’ primary negotiator.

Adult pirates often claim not to know that it is illegal to employ children. They would like to increase the size of their piracy force so they can assume control over more piracy vessels or improve their ability to attack target vessels. Children are viewed as being obedient and easily manipulated and are therefore seen as posing less of a potential threat to piracy commanders.

Children are agile and effective at scaling small or light ladders and can get into tighter spaces than adults. Children are perceived as naive and brave, thus willing to take risks without contemplating the consequences. Children are considered cheap, expendable and easily found in large numbers.

Also, children require very limited training. Once they can handle a small boat, shoot and dismantle and clean a gun, they are ready to be employed on board piracy vessels.

Importantly, children pose a moral problem for mariners, as most professional sailors and maritime security sector actors will hesitate to shoot when faced with a child holding a gun.

Are some children particularly vulnerable?

There are many factors that can increase a child’s vulnerability to recruitment: being impoverishment; travelling unaccompanied; being an orphan; homelessness; living in an internally displaced persons or refugee camp; being female; being illiterate; having a relationship or friendship with someone who has joined a maritime piracy group; escaping from forced labour (e.g. fishing, mine, factory, field worker, etc.); belonging to a community that hosts a maritime piracy group; belonging to a persecuted ethnic or religious minority; being in conflict with the law; and being addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, and it is a cyclic thing. Children, raised and inculcated at an early age to the violence and depravity, enter a cycle of violence that only perpetuates conflict, both at sea and ashore.

What are the moral dilemmas for people involved in shipping or maritime security?

To borrow from a statement made by our founder General Roméo Dallaire, while speaking in the context of child soldiers: “Shock hits you as you realize this soldier is not a man or a professional – not your equal in age, strength, training, understanding. This soldier is a child, in the tattered remnants of a military uniform, with dozens more children behind him.”

Aside from the physical threat that child maritime pirates may present mariners and maritime security sector actors, facing them can also cause psychological harm in a number of ways.

One of the most likely sources of psychological harm is employing deadly force against children. There is a duality inherent in this situation: they are both a child, someone who is vulnerable, impressionable, frequently irrational and deserving of the utmost protection; and at the same time, they are also potentially violent, unpredictable individuals who can threaten the sailor, and they may view themselves more as an adult than a child.

When facing a child pirate, the mariner or maritime security sector actor may have to choose between defending their own life, their shipmate’s, their ship and sparing the life of a child. Such decisions are never easy to make, especially when under the time pressures of a potentially deadly engagement.

This can lead to what is termed a “moral injury” – when one perpetrates an act against another person that breaks with one’s sense of morals. This could, for instance, occur if a mariner or maritime security sector actor shoots and kills a child pirate or, shocked by the situation, fails to react appropriately and others are harmed as a consequence.

The symptoms of moral injuries may include shame or guilt for the act, flashbacks to the act and difficulties sleeping or concentrating.

Psychological harm can also be caused by witnessing or being subjected to traumatic events, such as being threatened with death or having a colleague killed. These may result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other operational stress injuries, which also exhibits symptoms of flashbacks, concentration and sleep difficulties and hyper-arousal.

Even if symptoms do not lead to a clinical diagnosis of PTSD, traumatic events can also lead to depression, alcohol use, relationship problems aggression, or other mental health challenges.

How these types of operational stress may impact security sector actors facing child maritime pirates has not been specifically researched.

In order to better prepare mariners and maritime security sector actors for the moral and psychological dilemmas associated with engaging children associated with maritime piracy, improved effort must also be made to create a reporting system. Incident reports from sea should be effectively analyzed and the results fed back into the training cycle.

Finally, all mariners and maritime security sector actors who have faced children associated with maritime piracy should be offered quality post-incident counselling to help mitigate any ensuing negative psychological effects.

What do you hope to achieve with the Handbook and your involvement with the Dallaire Initiative?

Our goal, as with child soldiers, is to end their recruitment and use by proactively educating and training those who face this phenomenon most directly and most commonly. We aim to reduce the perceived advantage of using children in this role, and increase public awareness and abhorrence for such a practice.

If there are no advantages to using children, leaving only their disadvantages, such as being weaker, less resilient, easier to distract and less capable of advanced training, and leaving those responsible for their recruitment and use subject to increased legal sanction, then we will begin to stop their use all together.

What successes have you had so far?

We have succeeded in helping to raise awareness of children associated with maritime piracy and their special needs, which has in part seen the establishment of special processes for captured and detained child pirates. We have also succeeded in engaging civilian mariner organizations as well as state naval forces who are interested in training their personnel on how to better deal with children associated with maritime piracy.

How does the Handbook fit with the 100 Series Rules of Force?

Much like the Handbook, the 100 Series Rules of Force was the first of its kind to provide the international maritime community with a model set of rules to govern the use of force in self defence. While Rules of Engagement are a well-known military idea, setting out the circumstances for military, including naval forces to lawfully use force in order to achieve their mission, prior to the 100 Series no such guidance or benchmark was available within the civilian sphere.

With these rules however, private maritime security companies now have guidance that incorporates international law and internationally generally accepted legal recommendations regarding the use of force in situations where the concept of self defence is engaged.

When combined with the guidance found within the Handbook, which itself also seeks to proactively educate and train civilian mariners and marine security sector actors, members of the maritime industry are better equipped to deal with this phenomena.

How do you view Human Rights at Sea?

Human Rights at Sea is a cutting-edge organization helping to shine a light on the previously ignored, misunderstood or simply suppressed issue of human rights beyond borders – on the high seas. In many ways, mariners are more vulnerable than those who remain ashore, as once at sea it is only the “law of the flag” that will apply – including that state’s human rights legislation. Moreover, even the flag state human rights legislation is often scant protection, as there is frequently no investigative or enforcement mechanism on board a merchant vessel to protect the sailor.

Human Rights at Sea is therefore filling a much needed and valuable role, protecting sailors who are otherwise without protection and raising awareness of issues that have previously gone unreported, unacknowledged and unaddressed by the international community. It has been a great pleasure working with David Hammond and Human Rights at Sea, and this is a partnership that we look forward to maintaining for many years to come.

The issue of maritime piracy can be found wherever ships are at sea, and as one of the first crimes recognized under international law for enforcement and prosecution by individual states, it remains in a class of its own. Likewise the associated abuse of using children to engage in this criminal activity. By working collaboratively with Human Rights at Sea and other like-minded organizations, the Dallaire Initiative will continue to shine a light on this abuse and work towards the day when children used as maritime pirates is a thing of the past.

Thank-you Darin.

The Romeo Dallaire Initiative 

Posted May 20, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Video: Indian Navy Thwarts Pirate Attack Off Somalia   1 comment

By MarEx 

On Tuesday, the Indian Navy patrol vessel INS Sharda rescued the Liberian-flagged bulker Lord Mountbatten from a pirate attack 150 nm off the northeastern tip of Somalia.

The Mountbatten made a distress call at 1645 hours, Indian Navy officials said, and she reported two suspected mother ships accompanied by eight skiffs. The Sharda diverted to assist.

The Mountbatten was about 30 nm away at the time of the call, and the Sharda arrived towards 1900. She found all ten aggressor vessels on scene and launched an armed helicopter and special forces boarding units, which chased down the remaining pirates. Boarding teams found one gun aboard one of the dhows, according to an Indian Navy statement. The dhows reportedly lacked fishing gear.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has resumed after a five-year lull, driven by famine and poverty onshore and enabled by falling investments in maritime security. Total expenditures on naval patrols and embarked maritime security contractors in the High Risk Area have fallen dramatically since the peak period of Somali piracy in 2011.

Somali pirates have recently shown an ability to mount hijacking expeditions far out into the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, as demonstrated by the attack on the Mountbatten. In April, EU NAVFOR spokesperson Commander Jacqui Sherriff emphasized “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.”

Posted May 20, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Last Two Abu Sayyaf Fighters Killed on Bohol   1 comment

pangPangangan Island (file image / Jed Sum / panoramio)

By MarEx

Philippine security forces on the island of Bohol have killed the last remaining members of a group of terrorists who had infiltrated the island an attempt to attack tourists.

“All the Abu Sayyaf Group members who landed in Bohol province aboard [three boats] in early April 2017 were all neutralized. Bohol is now cleared of Abu Sayyaf Group elements,” said AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla.

The last two terrorists were found at Pangangan Island, a small resort community connected by a causeway to the town of Calape, Bohol. Police said that the two terrorists tried to take a child hostage early on Tuesday, but they abandoned the kidnapping attempt when government forces approached. The tried to escape on a motorcycle but split up near a police checkpoint, and they were both hunted down by late afternoon.

In April, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte exhorted the military to avoid capturing any of the Bohol infiltrators. “I told the military, don’t sleep, find them and kill them . . . Don’t give them to me alive,” he said. Duterte also offered a bounty of $20,000 for information on the militants’ whereabouts, and the Philippine military says it is in the process of verifying claims for payouts.

Police and military forces received a tip-off about a pending Abu Sayyaf attack in early April. A combined police and military force encountered eleven Abu Sayyaf bandits at the town of Inabanga on April 11 and engaged them in a firefight, killing four and forcing the rest to flee. Three soldiers and one policeman died in the exchange.

After an intensive search, the police located the surviving Abu Sayyaf members in a cave at Barangay Bacani on April 22 and killed another four. One more was captured on May 4 and was shot while trying to escape. With the deaths of the last two suspects on Monday, Philippine forces say, Bohol is safe from Abu Sayyaf once more. None of the infiltrators survived to see trial.

Two men who were believed to be in communication with the Abu Sayyaf attack group are still at large, but police say that they are not on the island.

The ISIS-aligned terrorist group Abu Sayyaf (ASG) has made the waters between the Philippines and Malaysia among the most dangerous in the world for maritime piracy, and it has kidnapped dozens of seafarers over the course of the past year. The group is still believed to be holding mariners hostage. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is engaged in a full-scale campaign against ASG, and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have announced joint naval patrols to suppress the group’s activities in the waters between Tawi Tawi and Sabah.

Posted May 17, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Chinese Navy Hands Pirates Over to Somali Authorities   1 comment

yulinThe PLA(N) frigate Yulin (file image)

By MarEx 

On Friday, a Chinese naval vessel transferred three suspected pirates to the custody of the Somali maritime police in Puntland region. The three alleged pirates had been reported missing after a boarding team from the Chinese frigate Yulin thwarted an attack on the bulker OS 35 last month. Two attackers escaped from the scene and returned home, and they spread word that three associates had been left behind.

The captured suspects include Aw Kombe, a known pirate spokesperson and leader who was also involved in the hijacking of the tanker Aris 13.

Chinese forces defeated two attempted hijackings in April, the attack on the OS 35 and a second on the bulk carrier Alheera. A Somali official told VOA Somalia that the Chinese forces killed two out of a group of nine attackers in the Alheera incident. One more was wounded and six managed to escape unharmed. The official – Ahmed Abdullahi, a spokesman for Puntland’s maritime police force – said that villagers had found what they believed to be the bodies of the pirates on the shore.

The Chinese military has expressed pride in the PLA(N)’s anti-piracy operations, hailing the recent interdictions as a sign that China has arrived as a major maritime power. Sr. Col. Yang Yujun of the Ministry of National Defense confirmed the Alheera incident, but did not acknowledge any fatalities. “On April 15, the Chinese guided missile frigate Hengyang verified and expelled pirate suspects and successfully rescued a Panamanian ship,” he said at a press briefing late last month.

Posted May 17, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Navy SEAL Killed in Raid on Somali Terrorist Group   1 comment

amiAfrican Union forces advance on Al Shabaab near Kismayo (file image)

By MarEx 

On Thursday, a member of a Navy SEAL team was killed in an operation against the Somali militant group al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate, at a location 40 miles west of Mogadishu. The servicemember may have been the first American to die in combat in Somalia since 1993, when casualties from the well-publicized “Black Hawk Down” incident prompted President Bill Clinton to pull U.S. troops out of the country.

Reports from specialist defense media suggest that two other SEALs and one interpreter were injured in the incident. The raid may have involved SEAL Team 6, which has a prominent role in counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa.

Over the past few years, the U.S. military has rebuilt its presence in Somalia in the form of train-and-assist missions for African Union and Somali government troops. Publicly, this support includes aerial surveillance and drone strikes; sources suggest that it also includes the regular involvement of U.S. special forces in covert raids.

al Shabaab (“The Youth” or “Mujahideen Youth Movement”) is a designated terrorist organization with ties to Al Qaeda. It opposes Somalia’s internationally recognized government, and while it has lost control of most of its territory since the launch of a Somali / African Union offensive in 2011, it continues to execute terrorist attacks – like the 2013 raid on a mall in Nairobi and the attempted bombing of a Somali airliner last year.

Anecdotal reports suggest that al Shabaab has had a complex relationship with Somali piracy over the years, at times fighting with “un-Islamic” pirate networks, at others demanding a cut from pirates’ ransom proceeds or trading hostages. It still exerts an influence in most rural areas south of Puntland, and routinely extorts money from businesses and aid groups to support its operations.

Posted May 6, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS