PVI: Weekly Maritime Security Report

Malaysia: Pirates hijack palm oil vessel off Sarawak 3 June

A gang of pirates hijacked a vessel carrying crude palm oil about 35 nm off Mukah, Sarawak. The time of the hijacking was not disclosed, with the vessel owners having lost communication with the Ever Dignity barge overnight on 2 June and the vessel being discovered in the morning of 3 June. Upon reaching the vessel, the crewmembers reported that the pirates had siphoned some 3,000 litres of oil from the vessel. None of the crew were severely injured.


PVI Analysis: The incident represents the second hijacking of an oil cargo ship in Asian waters in 2016, after pirates hijacked oil tanker MV Hai Soon 12 on 8 May in the Java Sea with the intent of stealing and selling the ship’s oil. One of the ten crew sustained a minor injury during the incident, though it remains unclear if the assailants were armed. The incident underscores the ongoing criminality in Southeast Asian waters and the need for vigilance when transiting through the region.


West Africa


Nigeria: Militants kill six in attack on state-owned oil boat in Niger Delta 1 June

Unidentified militants killed two soldiers and four civilian staff on board a houseboat owned by the state oil firm Nigerian National Petroleum Company in the Niger Delta’s Warri region at 1750 hrs local time, according to an army statement. One soldier remains missing after the attack. No group claimed the attack.


PVI Analysis: The Warri region has seen a number of attacks on pipelines by the militant group the Niger Delta Avengers in recent weeks, although the group issued a statement denying any involvement in the attack. As no major militant group claimed the attack, it was likely perpetrated by local actors acting independently of any organised armed group.


Nigeria: Navy arrests three for maritime crimes 1 June

The Nigerian navy has arrested three suspects for pipeline vandalism and related maritime crimes. The three suspects will be handed over to prosecuting agencies after preliminary investigation.


PVI Analysis: The arrests come as the navy steps up operations and introduces more combat platforms for the security of crucial economic assets and the country’s waterways. Armed forces launched an offensive against Niger Delta militants at the end of May, deploying 100 gunboats and fighter jets to the Niger Delta creeks. The move has raised tensions between government forces and local communities and is therefore likely to cause more locals to resort to militancy and criminality in the region.


Select Maritime News


Australia: Storms, floods kill at least three people along east coast 6 June

Two days of severe storms have caused widespread flooding across the coastal areas of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania states, forcing tens of thousands of evacuations. Flood warnings have been issued for seven rivers, and insurance companies have estimated the damage to be at USD 28 mn. At least three people have reportedly been killed by flooding in Tasmania, Sydney’s Bondi Beach, Cotter River near Canberra and at rivers in New South Wales’ Bowral. Thousands have been left without power or internet. Operations have been restricted at Newcastle Port, while Port Kembla has been closed.


Cambodia: Timber businessman plans port project at Kampot 1 June

Businessman Try Pheap said he is planning to begin construction on a USD 300 mn port project in Kampot province before the end of 2016. The port will be joint developed by Hong Kong’s Hutchison Port Holdings and will be located on 50 hectares of land owned by the businessman in Teuk Chhou district. It will be able to handle 20,000 tonnes of cargo per shipment, including oil. Pheap is mainly involved in Cambodia’s secretive timber trading business and has been accused by the NGO Global Witness of running a large-scale illegal timber smuggling scheme in protected forests.


Canada: Seafarers’ union condemns proposed cuts to shipping line 31 May

The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) has rejected Canada Steamship Lines’ proposals for a new collective agreement which includes cuts to pay. Negotiations on the new contracts are due to commence on 1 June, although the union has not yet announced it is considering industrial action, stating it hopes the talks will be successful.


China: Tokyo protests Beijing’s continued gas development in East China Sea 3 June

Japan has formally protested China’s development of gas facilities in the East China Sea despite repeated calls to abide by the 2008 joint gas development accord. China has reportedly established 16 facilities on gas fields along the boundary between the two countries’ waters, with three of the 16 believed to already be operational. Japan has called for a restart to talks over joint development, with the response of China to these proposals unclear.


China: Guangzhou authorities seize oil tanker over tax evasion 1 June

Authorities in Guangzhou city reported they detained a foreign-flagged oil tanker and arrested an unconfirmed number of people, including an employee of Swiss trading house Gunvor, over the alleged evasion of import tax. The seizure and arrests took place in May, and Gunvor have confirmed their employee is being detained for questioning but has not been formally charged. Authorities said they were investigating the smuggling of light cycle oil, a refinery product for diesel blending. Neither the vessel nor the individuals involved have been named as of yet. China Base Ningbo Group has said it was the import agent for Gunvor, and the fuel was sold to Twinace Oil, a Guangzhou-based retailer.


France: Freight, cargo forwarders warn of severe congestion, fuel shortages amid strike 1 June

Cargo forwarders stated transportation across France faces significant disruption and congestion as striking workers and protesters continue to block roads and refineries, making it difficult for suppliers to deliver fuel, gas and petroleum products to companies. Yves Fargues, chairman of Transport and Logistic France, stated that although France has a large stockpile of fuel, it is difficult to transport it to the nation’s petrol stations. Authorities have relaxed labour rules temporarily to allow hauliers to work longer hours to facilitate the distribution of fuel.


Indonesia: Government allots USD 120 mn to oil stockpiling 6 June

The Energy and Resources Ministry announced that USD 120 mn of its proposed budget is designated for the country’s energy security fund, which is being used to stockpile petroleum amid low global prices. The ministry has said the fund is far below what is needed to maintain a sufficient strategic oil stock in the next five years. Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have all been engaging in oil stockpiling in the past year, with large amounts of petroleum being stored on tankers in the Singapore Strait.


Indonesia: Riau authorities warn Singaporean firm against territorial claim 1 June

The provincial tourism agency of Indonesia’s Riau Islands has issued a warning to Singaporean firm Funtasy Island Development (FID) after it unveiled plans for a resort on a cluster of islands north of Batam which it claimed are Singaporean. Indonesian provincial authorities have asked for an explanation from the firm’s Singaporean management. Control of the islands has been disputed by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore since the creation of Malaysia as an independent state in 1963, but Riau’s main island of Batam is firmly controlled by Jakarta.


Indonesia: Coast guard seizes Philippine, Vietnamese fishing vessels off Papua 31 May

The Indonesian Coast Guard detained one Philippine and one Vietnamese fishing vessel over suspicions of illegal fishing off the coast of Raja Ampat, West Papua. Three warning shots were fired at the vessels before they were intercepted. According to state-run news agency Antara, the vessels did not have the necessary documents to enter Indonesian waters. The seizures come the day after the Philippines and Indonesia launched joint maritime patrols along their shared Sulawesi border to prevent such border encroachments and maritime crime.


Iran: Tehran to set up shipping line to Japan 1 June

The Managing Director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines announced plans to launch a regular shipping line to Japan in the coming weeks to expand maritime trade between the two states. The news comes after the majority of international sanctions against Tehran were lifted in January 2016, allowing shipping lines to be set up between Iran and China, South Korea and Singapore.


Japan: Okinawa police seize USD 387 mn worth of drugs from yacht 3 June

Police confiscated 600 kg of methamphetamines worth about USD 387 mn from a yacht at the Naha port in Okinawa. The haul is believed to be the largest ever in Japanese history. Six people from Taiwan were arrested from the boat, which passed customs in Japan after travelling from Taiwan via Ishigaki Island.


Malaysia: Authorities fine five cargo depot firms for price fixing 1 June

The Malaysia Competition Commission (MCC) has fined five firms USD 155,000 each for price fixing and cartel activities in the port operations sector. Four of the firms are container depot operators at ports in the Penang area – Ayza Industries, ICS Depot Services, EAE Depot and Freight Forwarding, and Prompt Dynamics – and the fifth is an information technology provider to the shipping industry, Containerchain Sdn Bhd. According to investigators, the firms coordinated to increase depot gate charges and fixing rebate charges at the depot gates for logistics firms. The collusion effectively restricted competition in the market for the provision of empty container storage, maintenance and handling services at Penang Port.


Mexico: Authorities seize chemical shipment in Lázaro Cárdenas 1 June

Mexican authorities reported the confiscation of a shipment of chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs at Lázaro Cárdenas port. The shipment, which had come from China, contained some 22 tonnes of a chemical compound known as monoethylene. It was not reported when the seizure was made or if anyone was arrested during the operation. Lázaro Cárdenas is a strategic commercial port in the state of Michoacán, which is a key route for drug trafficking in the west of the country.


North Korea: Pyongyang accuses Seoul Navy of violating western maritime border 6 June

North Korea’s state-run Central News Agency has accused the South Korean Navy of violating its maritime border at 0430 hrs local time in the eastern Yellow Sea. Pyongyang also claimed that 19 southern fishing boats were accompanying the naval vessels. Seoul has not responded to the accusations.


Pakistan: Islamabad releases 18 Indian fishermen from Karachi prison 5 June

Authorities freed 18 Indian fishermen arrested for encroaching on Pakistani territorial waters from Karachi’s Malir jail. The men will be taken to Lahore via train to be handed over to India through the Wagah border, the Express Tribune reported. Disputed maritime borders have led to frequent arrests of fishermen from both countries on poaching charges.


Panama: Panama Canal’s third set of locks declared operational 2 June

The contractor responsible for the Panama Canal’s expansion announced the canal’s third set of locks had successfully completed their testing phase and are operational. The Authority of the Panama Canal will now review the contractor’s report ahead of the expanded canal’s planned opening on 26 June.


Panama: Panama Canal traffic unaffected by wall collapse 1 June

Shipping traffic in the Panama Canal has not been disrupted by the collapse of the southeast wall of the Miraflores locks on 29 May, according to the Panama Canal Authority. Repair works are being carried out and are expected to take four to five weeks. The collapse came one month ahead of the inauguration of the expanded Panama Canal on 26 June.


Portugal: Lisbon port workers reach deal amid strike 1 June

The Portuguese Dockers Union (SETC) has reached an agreement over a new collective agreement with port employer’s associations that is due to be signed in the coming days. The news makes it likely that ongoing strike action will end at the Port of Lisbon imminently. The agreement, which will last six years, will end a long-running dispute between workers and employers. SETC has staged a series of strikes at the Port of Lisbon since November 2015 which have caused severe disruption at the port.


Sudan: Government considers privatisation of ports 3 June

Sudan’s Ministry of Transport is reported to be considering privatising its seaports. A committee has been established within the ministry to offer Port Sudan, the country’s largest facility, to the private sector. The General Union of Port Workers in Port Sudan has rejected the proposal, saying it could lead to the displacement of 40,000 workers and staff.


United States: Beijing confirms warships will join US naval drills 2 June

China confirmed its navy will send five ships to join a major US-hosted naval drill, the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC), which is held every two years in Hawaii in June and July. The Chinese vessels will participate in live fire, anti-piracy, search and rescue and other drills. Despite China’s anger at US military patrols close to islands controlled by Beijing in the South China Sea, and US criticism of China’s military build-up, both countries have been trying to improve defence ties and ensure regular communications.


United States: Authorities seize 907 kg of cocaine at dock in Miami River 1 June

Officers with the US Customs and Border Protection boarded and searched a general cargo ship at dock on the Miami River and found 907 kg of cocaine hidden in the weather decks. The vessel, the 1983-built general cargo ship Lisanne, had arrived from Haiti with empty holds. The assistant port director for Customs and Border Protection said the narcotics seizure was the largest on the Miami River in more than a decade.


Venezuela: Tankers grounded due to state oil company payment failures 31 May

Reuters reported that four tankers carrying more than 2 mn barrels of US crude are stuck at sea and cannot discharge at a Caribbean terminal because state oil company PDVSA has not yet paid supplier BP. PDVSA’s shortage of dollars and malfunctioning loading arms at its Jose oil terminal have added to a backlog of tankers since March. The company’s delayed payments to suppliers have led service firms including Schlumberger, Halliburton and Petrex to curtail operations in the country.


Vietnam: At least 56 missing after tourist boat sinks off Da Nang 5 June

At least three people are dead and 56 missing after a boat carrying tourists sank in Da Nang’s Han River around 2030 hrs local time. Some people managed to swim to shore, but rescue teams have so far only found three dead bodies. Preliminary investigations by police have found that the boat was not licenced to carry tourists and had a capacity of only 28 people. The boat was owned by Thao Van 2 company.


Yemen: Coast guard, coalition forces prevent fuel smuggling attempt in Aden 1 June

Yemeni coast guard and Saudi-led coalition naval forces seized a vessel attempting to smuggle fuel into Aden. Six crew members, including the Sri Lankan captain of the vessel, were arrested after they attempted to flee the port area by sea.

Source: Protection Vessels International