Gulf of Guinea
The spike in the number of kidnapping incidents that occurred in Nigerian waters in Q1 of 2014 was followed by a break in such criminality, with just one further report being received in the five month period thereafter. However, on 14 August pirates boarded support vessel MV Lamnalco Merlin south of Brass and two crew were abducted for ransom. A similar raid followed on 18 September when pirates kidnapped five crew from MV King Jesus offshore Akwa Ibom State. As is nearly always the case both incidents occurred after midnight in areas just outside of the 12 nm TTW policed by the Nigerian Navy.
In Q2 we reported that some maritime criminality had shifted west to the maritime border area between Ghana and Togo. This continued with the hijacking and subsequent cargo theft of MT Haisoon 6 on 26 July in practically the same area where MT Fair Artemis succumbed to the same fate on 4 June. Nigerian based syndicates conducted both acts of piracy, releasing MT Haisoon 6 from their control southeast of Lagos one week after capture. No further successful hijackings of tankers have occurred, but the intent to¬†do so remains; MT SP Boston was attacked overnight on 27 August off the Ivory Coast. The motive for the attack was once again to steal its cargo, but the gang found the ship to be in ballast, and so merely looted the vessel and crew valuables and cash before fleeing the scene. Criminals have attacked three tankers southwest of Bayelsa State, Nigeria during this quarter; fortunately, all attacks were aborted after the ship‚Äôs crews took effective defensive measures. Whether the motive for these attacks was cargo theft or kidnapping is unknown, but it has remained clear that, throughout this period, organised criminal gangs remain intent on continuing with both forms of crime. There have been 15 confirmed incidents reported during the third quarter of 2014 compared with 22 in Q1 and 14 in Q2. The statistics are in keeping with the number of recorded attacks in previous years. Moving away from piracy, the West African Ebola outbreak continued to escalate during Q3, with over 3,000 fatalities now confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Some nations have introduced preventative measures in ports in response to this situation, which have the possibility of affecting maritime operations around the globe. The outbreak is far from contained and it is important that crews are briefed prior to visiting countries that are affected by the virus.
Horn of Africa
The Southwest Monsoon has dominated the Horn of Africa HRA during Q3, with any thoughts of piracy in the Indian Ocean/ Arabian Sea are blown away with the Monsoon winds. Wind speeds of over 35 knots, accompanied by waves in excess of five metres are experienced for the majority of days between late June and mid-September. The Gulf of Aden has also seen increased wind speeds and sea states, which precludes piracy operations. The Monsoon does not affect the Southern Red Sea and Gulf of Oman and that is where we have seen the most reports of potential incidents; however, despite 16 reported approaches there have been no confirmed piracy incidents reported in Q3. The incorrect identification of local traffic remains the most consistent factor in all of these reports. With calm seas and light winds across the Arabian Sea and Somali Basin during the next two months, conditions will be well within operating limits for pirate skiffs. However, a lack of funding, equipment and manpower will likely limit the number of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) putting to sea. While Al-Shabab continues to lose control in many southern regions of Somalia, there is the potential for pirate operations to recommence out of the fishing villages south of Mogadishu, thus allowing easier access to the southern Somali Basin and the target rich areas off Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. Coalition naval operations continue along the north eastern coast of Somalia, any PAGs that do venture into the open ocean run the risk of detection and disruption long before they reach the shipping lanes. Dryad maintains that vessels should transit through the Somali Basin at a minimum of 300 NM from shore.
Maritime crime across Southeast Asia continues at pace during Q3; there have been five further hijackings of product tankers for cargo theft, four of these occurred in the vicinity of Singapore and are assessed as being carried out by the same gang. Dryad judges that a different gang carried out the Andaman Sea incident in order to refuel their mother ship. This gang are operating with the intention of boarding vessels to¬†steal cash and crew belongings. To the east of the Singapore Strait a further eight vessels were boarded while at anchor, taking the total of similar incidents in the area to 30 so far in 2014. This is in comparison with just nine incidents in the area during the same period in 2013. With the exception of the anchorages to the east of Singapore, there has been a reduction in the number of incidents reported in the major ports of Indonesia. During the same period in 2013, there were 18 incidents off Balikpapan/Samarinda, Indonesia but this year there has been only five. Dryad attributes the lower figures to better patrolling by the Indonesian Maritime Police, who in January instigated a new policy for the 11 ports and areas in which there had been large numbers of reported incidents during 2013. During the final three months of the year, Dryad expects to see an increase in boardings and attempted boardings in the northern Malacca Strait and Andaman Sea. Criminal syndicates will continue to target small product tankers soon after they depart Singapore with the intention of stealing their cargo of marine fuel oil for the black market. All vessels at anchor in the major ports across Southeast Asia remain at risk of boarding by opportunistic local criminals with the target being ship stores, which are easily resold in thriving local markets.