November 16, 2022News / PiracyOver the last three decades, the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) has developed into a maritime crime hotspot. Crude oil theft and piracy became commonplace, with highly-organized criminal networks selling stolen crude oil to clients across the world. The backdrop to this is decades of ethnic conflict and successive Nigerian governments finding it difficult to impose law and order across the Niger Delta. In the center of this conflict sits the Ijaw people, an ethnic group of around 4 million people with a proud maritime heritage. Background: the Maritime Heritage of the Ijaw in the GoG When Westerners first arrived in the GoG, the Ijaw people were among the first people they contacted. They had long been a maritime people, fishing and exploring all around the Niger Delta for possibly as long as 7,000 years. This made them ideal as go-betweens with people of the interior. By the early and mid-twentieth century, before Nigerian independence, the Ijaws had developed substantial corporations with fleets of merchant vessels and war canoes, escaping much of the heavy-handedness of the colonial powers. Black Gold In the Niger Delta With the coming of independence and the discovery of huge reserves of oil and gas in the Niger Delta, things changed for the Ijaw. Neglect by the Nigerian government and the presence of powerful corporations sent much of the Ijaw population into poverty, although many still remained in maritime careers, their skills becoming highly sought-after. Others trained in the petroleum industry. Perhaps inevitably, these conditions led to increasing inter-ethnic tensions, which, by the end of the 20th century, had developed into open conflict. Developing Conflict and the Ijaw Professional Diaspora By the early 1990s, the Ijaw and other minority groups in the Niger Delta had come to resent what they saw as their exploitation by oil companies granted licenses by a distant and uncaring central government. In 1998 the Ijaw Youth Council issued a declaration to oil companies, demanding they cease their activities and withdraw from Ijaw territory. This led to direct armed conflict with the oil companies as Ijaw activists and militias turned off pipelines and conducted sabotage against oil installations. This conflict remains mostly unresolved to this day and continues to impoverish the Ijaw as their most skilled people have left the country in large numbers, taking their maritime and petrochemical knowledge to nations across the Western world. Hope for the Future? In recent years, the Ijaw have mostly mellowed their positions, becoming advocates of peaceful resistance and brokering peaceful relations with other ethnic groups with whom they previously had disputes. In fact, they threw their weight behind the current governor of Delta State in the latest elections, a man of Itsekiri extraction, although an Ijaw candidate could easily have won the contest. This position comes from a desire that candidacy should not be based on ethnicity. Unfortunately, this has led to disagreement with the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who appear to be selecting candidates based on rotating between candidates from different ethnic groups. On this basis, Ijaw leaders rejected the results of the primaries for the 2023 gubernatorial election. Although this remains contentious, armed conflict doesn’t seem to be on the cards, and violence, in general, is at much lower levels than in previous years. The Niger Delta seems to be becoming more stable, and encouragingly, no piracy has been reported in the GoG for two consecutive quarters. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
February 10, 2022Illegal Exploitation Of Natural Ressources / News / PiracyChannel of Mozambique map Groups on the “Swahili Coast” started the Mozambique Channel insurgency in 2017. The revolution now includes not less than 800 separate attacks across Mozambique, especially Northern Mozambique. The attacks have resulted in at least 2600 fatalities while other 600,000 individuals are now displaced. The importance of this strategic region for maritime security and traffic By mid 19th century, the Mozambique Channel had for decades played a central role in the trade between the Western world, East Asia, and also within the Indian Ocean. Yet an international naval response was necessary to prevent illegal traffic and safeguard channel trade, a similar scenario we see today. The Mozambique Channel has been a significant route for shipping in Eastern Africa. The Channel receives every major river in Madagascar. It also features the ports of Toliary and Mahajanga on its coast. The ports of Beira, Mozambique, and Maputo and the Zambezi River’s mouth are also along the opposite shore of the Mozambique Channel. The current maritime security situation The ongoing rebellion in northern Mozambique has led to multiple maritime security concerns in the Mozambique Channel, a primary transit course for the marine traffic in the Indian Ocean’s arm. For instance, March 2021 was a period that saw a sour struggle for the port of Palma, reinforcing concerns about maritime security between Madagascar and the Mozambique coast. Today, the Mozambique Channel is already experiencing limited local maritime-security capacity. Piracy, illegal fishing, and other reasons for insecurities in the Mozambique Channel Several factors contribute to the Mozambique Channel insecurities, like the significant energy development projects of offshore gas fields near the Cabo Delgado Province’s coast. In August 2020, the militants’ capture of the port of Mocimboa da Praia led to an escalation of the insurgency in Mozambique. This insecurity led to the disruption of the enormous gas projects due to the weak maritime security along the Channel. This has also opened prospects for terror groups to fund and expand their operations, leaving essential coastal lines susceptible to naval threats. Since 2017, drug trafficking along the Mozambique Channel has been another threat in the region while drug traffickers were using the Channel as a trade route to smuggle heroin to Mozambique from Afghanistan. Additionally, the East African coast faces many challenges concerning illegal fishing and piracy that have thrived in the region for decades now. Piracy concerns led Mozambique to allow other countries, like the South African Navy, to offer security assistance. The international engagement in the area So far, the Mozambican armed forces seem to be overwhelmed as far as restoring order in the country is concerned, despite receiving reinforcements from several security contractors before. Instead, the insurgency appears to steadily grow in ambition and proficiency, creating a growing appreciation of the maritime aspects of the security situation. The results have been detrimental as the latest developments have led Total, the French energy company, to freeze work on its Mozambique high-cost liquefied natural gas venture. When it comes to international responses, Portugal has committed itself to station 60 soldiers to train local Special Forces. On the other side, France has areas off the East African coast, the Mayotte and Reunion, and several other Indian Ocean territories. The European Union (EU) has not been left behind as it keeps focusing its counter-piracy naval function on the Somalian coast with the Atalanta operation. But it now routinely consists of less than two naval assets, a situation that, together with the overall EU reluctance to more deeply involve themselves in the Mozambique state of affairs, has led to low likelihoods of extending the naval operation south to the Mozambique Channel. The United States of America have also involved itself in the Mozambique Channel’s regional maritime capacity-building attempts. Recently, the U.S announced a mission to offer the Mozambique marines military training to enhance the local armed forces’ ability to battle the insurgency. And after a technical mission dispatch, reports claim that the South African Development Community nations are thinking of stationing around 3000 troops to neutralize the insurgency. But implementing such a plan may not be that easy. The notion of an emerging maritime security Hotspot Today, the Mozambique Channel waters are becoming a primary new security hotspot throughout the Indian Ocean. Islamist groups have insurrected in Northern Mozambique, leading to an increased disruption in the Channel. And the Mozambique government seems to be powerless in suppressing the insurgence altogether. The idea of this emerging maritime security hotspot has called for European partners and the Quad nations to help contain the situation before stepping of other factors into the vacuum. The Mozambique insurgency is currently threatening security throughout the Mozambique Channel, the 1000-nm long watercourse separating East Africa and Madagascar. Approximately 30% of the global tanker traffic passes here, and the region hosts some of the largest gas reserves. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
February 9, 2022News / Piracy / Weapons TraffickingEU Flag The Mediterranean Sea has always been a strategic maritime trade and transportation region. However, the numerous islands and peninsulas in the area have made it convenient for smugglers to operate. But, the rise of terrorist groups in North Africa has only compounded the problem. The European Union has developed a maritime security strategy that focuses on cooperation between member states and NATO to combat these threats. This strategy is implemented through various naval exercises and operations, such as Irini and Sea Guardian. The on-going deployment of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and the Task Force 473, composed of several European ships and sailors, is a new step for a coordinate European action in the Mediterranean Region. Thus, with tensions high in the region, all actors must work together to maintain security in the Mediterranean Sea. Read on to learn more about the maritime security strategy. Maritime Issues Regarding Security in the Mediterranean Region The Mediterranean Sea is a strategic region for maritime transportation, with significant volumes of oil and gas passing through its waters. Therefore, the security of this area is essential to ensure the free flow of traffic and trade. However, several issues are affecting maritime security in the Mediterranean that require attention: Maritime terrorism can take multiple forms: criminal activity at sea (e.g., drug trafficking or human smuggling) or terrorist attacks on commercial vessels such as ferries and cruise ships. Drug and weapon smuggling is also a security concern for many countries as illegal substances can finance criminal organizations involved with terrorist activities. The second issue refers to pirate attacks that have been recorded off the Libyan coast following the 2011 revolution. There are also concerns about boats being used by terrorists to transit across national borders undetected – this could pose significant risks if they plan an attack inside another country’s waters. European Union Maritime Security Strategy The European Union has developed a maritime security strategy to protect its interests in the Mediterranean Sea. Currently, the French-led Task Force 473 deployed in Mediterranean Sea is the result of EU Members defense partnership, which will strengthen interoperability and coordination between military assets in region. One of the strategy’s main goals is to improve cooperation between EU member states and NATO allies. Besides, the approach focuses on drug and weapon smuggling, piracy, and maritime terrorism. The following are the strategies that have been put in place to achieve this goal: The Irini operation– was a naval operation conducted by the European Union to disrupt illegal arms trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea. The procedure was launched in March 2020, as a successor of Sophia Operation started in 2015, and is still on-going. The main goal of the Irini operation is to stop weapons from being smuggled to terrorist groups in Libya. The process managed to seize over 6000 firearms. Below are some benefits of the Irini operation to maritime security: The procedure showed that the European Union could conduct complex naval operationsIt improved cooperation between EU member states and NATO alliesIt disrupted illegal arms trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea Naval exercises– are a vital part of improving maritime security. They allow navies from different countries to train together and learn their procedures. This makes it easier for them to cooperate during real-world operations. The following are some examples of naval exercises that have been conducted recently: A multinational naval exercise called Poseidon 2018 was held in May of this year. The exercise involved ships and aircraft from 19 countries, including Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey. In June of the same year, the United States and France held a joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise involved the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. In addition, the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) conducted an anti-piracy exercise off the coast of Somalia in September of this year. The exercise involved ships from 23 countries, including Spain, Italy, and Portugal. The cooperation between EU and NATO The collaboration between EU and NATO is crucial for ensuring maritime security in the Mediterranean Sea. NATO provides valuable resources and expertise, while the European Union offers several significant benefits, such as unity and cohesion. As an example, many European Union members, acting also as NATO allies, participate to Sea Guardian, a maritime security operation aimed at protecting vessels from piracy and terrorism threats in the Mediterranean Sea. The Sea Guardian operation was launched in October 2017 and involved sailors from several NATO members such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece or Spain. This week, three carrier strike groups from USA (USS Harry S. truman), France (FS Charles De Gaulle) and Italy (ITS Cavour) conducted joint activities to improve interoperability at the highest level. Overall, the European Union has put several strategies to improve maritime security for the Mediterranean Sea. However, more needs to be done to ensure that naval security remains a priority in the region. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
December 27, 2021News / PiracyLibya map From 2016, the rise of maritime robbery cases observed off the coast of Libya, more precisely in the province of Derna is disturbing the freedom of navigation in Mediterranean sea. A brief history about Freedom of navigation Yore, freedom of navigation was a dream, then a concept, born in the 17th century. Once the Eighty Years’ War has ended, Spain claimed a new concept of “freedom of the high seas” over the strong Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. From this negotiation was born a slogan which was registered in a bilateral trade treaty: “free ship, free goods”. This principle attracted a lot, and it was even admitted that the use of force was legitimate to apply this new concept (English Treaty of Westminster in 1674). Nowadays, it is not a concept anymore. It is a law. International laws can sometimes be complex, but this one seems to be a consensus that cannot be criticized. On freedom of navigation depends the stability of international trade. It is now inscribed in the article 87 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) : “The high seas are open to all States, whether coastal or land-locked”, and the convention quotes “freedom of navigation” as the first of several rights for all states on the high seas. The rising threat of maritime crime in Libya However, there are plenty of examples where militias, clans or tribes of coastal nations seek to disturb this rule of law. In the Mediterranean, for 10 years, everyone has been following the Libyan conflict with interest since the fall of Gaddafi, but few would have imagined that the civil war and the economic crisis would generate a new zone of insecurity at sea, threatening ships. And yet, since 2016, a danger zone has been promulgated off the city of Derna (Cyrenaic region) by Libya in an area declared as NAVAREA 225/16. More precisely, this NAVAREA seems to have been promulgated unilaterally by the “LNA Sousse Marine Combat Company”, a militia affiliated with the Eastern camp of the “Tobruk” government. This no sail zone has been officially edited to warn mariners of the dangerous nature of this maritime zone. It courteously asks merchant ships to repeat, repeatedly, every day at noon information, in particular the route, the destination, the cargo transported and the name of the owner. In 5 years, dozens of cases of robbery, diversion, and ransom demands have been reported in the area, mostly within 20Nq of the coast. Pirates are moving further and further from the Derna coast But since January 2021, it seems that the modus operandi of the militia has evolved. The brigands are pushing the hunt up to 25 to 30 nautical miles from the coast, thus dangerously brushing the very busy navigation rail that runs from the Strait of Messina to the Suez Canal. A European warship has recently observed a flagrant deli of attempted diversion of a merchant vessel. Called on VHF by the militia, and threatened to be bombed or come under fire from warring fighter aircraft planes, the ship first complied and turned south, ready to run into the lion’s den. Nevertheless, the ship understood the deception on time, and cancelled her maneuver. In the past 3 months, 6 ships have been robbed in by the militia, losing precious time and money. Recently, it was a German merchant ship that bore the brunt of this robbery. She had to pay a ransom of roughly 50 000 $ to be allowed to resume her journey, much to the relied of a traumatized crew. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
December 7, 2021News / PiracyGrand African Nemo Gulf of Guinea was for years the most dangerous maritime area. However, years of cooperation building, training and partnerships raised operational level of local navies. The French-led maritime exercise Grand African NEMO 2021 revealed the improvement of African Navies. Gulf of Guinea Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is the most attractive African Maritime Area. Full of natural resources, such as fish or gas, this region of 2 350 00 km2 is a crossroad for 13 countries. Over 1 500 vessels are sailing in this area every day. For decades, it has been one of the most dangerous areas for sailors and problems were numerous: piracy, robbery, kidnapping, human smuggling, and drug traffic. Countries were losing their natural sea resources, unable to control their territorial waters. But this year, when piracy attacks increased everywhere in the world, it remaineds stable in the GoG. How is that possible? Thanks to a common regional strategy and strong partnerships. African Navies in action October 22, Senegalese Navy seized 2 026 kg of cocaine. A few days after, a common patrol between Gambian and Senegalese navies arrested 3 fishing vessels in illegal fishing activities. What made this maritime operation successful? Coordination and competencies. A few years ago, three cooperation centers were created: ICC (Interregional Coordination Center) in Yaoundé, CRESMAC (Regional Maritime Security Center for Central Africa) in Pointe-Noire and CRESMAO (Regional Maritime Security Center for West Africa) in Abidjan. The GoG is also divided in 5 areas (A, D, E, F and G), controlled by two Multinational Maritime Coordination Center. Overall, capacities of African Navies deeply increased during past years. It was especially observed during Grand African NEMO 2021, a French-led maritime exercise started on 2 November with 29 nations. One of the French instructors noticed that: “it is my third participation to Grand African Nemo and I had never seen such operational level and possibility of cooperation. I am proud to see results after years of mutual training and efforts from all sides, and see better days ahead for the region if we all keep it in that way”. This feeling is apparently shared by an Ivorian officer who declared to be “proud to participate and to be an actor of this this large-scale exercise. It is not easy to coordinate 40 vessels at sea, but we are in the right direction and we need to continue closed cooperation”. France, the historical partner for GoG navies Since 1990 and the begin of the operation Corymbe, the French navy has been keeping deployed at least one warship in the GoG. The cooperation with local navies and common patrols helped to prevent piracy and smuggling. As a lead-nation amongst the European Navies, its expertise is used by African nations to develop their capabilities to protect their maritime area and their sea resources from foreign attacks. Moreover, the Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT – GoG) is hosted by the MICA Center in Brest, France, and monitor piracy in the region sharing information with regional centers. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
July 13, 2021News / PiracyNigeria on the offensive in GoG Nigeria, the continent’s leading economic power, decided to take anti piracy action in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the world’s most dangerous waters. It is only a month since Nigeria armed itself heavily to conduct anti piracy action. It is an investment of $200 million on which the country would like to get paid back, by asking to be taken off the red list of countries with the most dangerous maritime waters. Strong pressure from shipowners and insurance companies Since the beginning of 2021, several shipowners and insurance companies have been lobbying on the international scene to call for a change of heart to curb what has become the epicentre of global piracy. With a record increase of 20% in 2020, pirates have moved away from cargo theft to the more profitable business of kidnapping crews for ransom. These methods are alarming to powerless shipowners, especially as 80% of these acts of piracy are carried out with weapons. 130 crew members have been kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea compared to 135 worldwide.On 17 May, 234 companies and shipowners called for an international coalition to secure the 5,700 km of the coastline (from Senegal to Angola) and its 20,000 ships in transit each year. The objective? The assistance of foreign (i.e. non-regional) navies to really apply international law and anti-piracy laws. New anti-piracy weaponry To deal with this, Nigeria has equipped itself with no less than 16 fast interception vessels and three helicopters, deployed in its Exclusive economic Zone. In addition, on land, there is a special trained force of 600 men, 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrols, two special mission ships, two aircraft for surveillance, and four drones.According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the area is the most dangerous in the world, accounting for 95% of the world’s maritime kidnappings.As reported by ECOFIN Agency, the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, declares the anti-piracy forces deployment “became evident within the framework of the Gulf of Guinea maritime collaboration recently established by Nigeria and the Yaoundé Interregional Coordination Centre through the facilitation of the joint industry-state task force to combat maritime security in the region”. Efforts still uncertain However, despite its efforts, Nigeria did not succeed in convincing insurers on 18 June to remove itself from the red list of countries with the riskiest maritime waters. The expected removal of this list, which allows insurers to charge higher insurance premiums to cover ships transiting through Nigerian waters, “will not happen for the time being,” replied the Lloyd’s Market Association, which groups insurance companies.It will probably take several years before any significant results are achieved to convince the international scene and probably rely on the support of the American and French navies, in particular, for some time to come. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
June 30, 2021News / PiracyCaptain Philips movie On October 11th, 2013, a movie called Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips, premiered worldwide. The movie received glowing reviews, and claims to be based on actual events. But what has actually happened? In April 2009, the Maersk Alabama cargo ship (now MV Tygra) was attacked and captured by four Somali pirates less than 300 nautical miles off the Coast of Somalia. The whole crew were taken hostage and the pirates took the captain Richard Phillips, off the ship into a lifeboat. On orders from former President Obama, the U.S. Navy, and specifically Navy marksmen, fatally shot all but one of the pirates and rescued Captain Phillips. The story made national and international news. But does Captain Phillips tell the whole story? And does the movie narrate it accurately? In fact, approximately half of the crewmembers, represented by Brian Beckcom, are claiming that the shipping company, Maersk Lines Limited, willfully allowed the Maersk Alabama to sail directly into pirate-infested waters despite receiving multiple warnings to avoid the area. And the lawsuit further claims that the Alabama didn’t have adequate anti-pirate security measures. That lawsuit settled before it went to trial in Mobile, Alabama, on December 2nd, 2013. “The real heroes are the men and women of the U.S. Navy who rescued the shipping company from its poor decisions and the brave crewmembers who actually fought back against the pirates once they boarded the ship – despite the crewmembers being unarmed while facing pirates carrying automatic weapons,” says Brian Beckcom. According to the lawsuit, Maersk essentially “outsourced” the security of the Alabama to the U.S. military, rather than providing basic anti-piracy prevention measures such as armed guards. Since the April 2009 attack, the Maersk Alabama has been approached by pirates on at least two other occasions.Hhowever, the pirates were quickly repelled by private armed contractors who now accompany Maersk vessels that travel in pirate-infested waters. Why was the Maersk Alabama hijacked in the first place? Although Captain Phillips is credited with saving the lives of his crew in the movie, the lawsuit filed by nine crewmembers sought to show that the real story was different from the movie. Captain Phillips’ crew who were on board the Maersk Alabama when it was hijacked say that their lives were put in jeopardy because of the decisions made by Phillips. They claim that:Captain Phillips risked lives when he ignored multiple warnings of pirate attacks in nearby waters. Instead of taking a safer route, he chose to sail the Maersk Alabama into pirate-infested waters. Captain Phillips claimed that he was not scared of pirates and ignored pleas from the crew to avoid the area, notorious for pirate attacks.Captain Phillips sailed the ship approximately 300 nautical miles closer to the coast of Somalia than was deemed safe by NATO, multiple military anti-piracy groups and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Nine of the crewmembers claim that the Captain and the shipping company acted irresponsibly by putting them in harm’s way to begin with. This is a far cry from the depiction of heroism in the movie that shows Captain Phillips offering himself as a hostage if the pirates let his crew go. Had Captain Phillips heeded all warnings, his crew would not have had to endure the emotional and physical trauma of the Maersk Alabama hijacking. How much of the story did Hollywood get wrong? While Hollywood’s version of events received critical acclaim, the version of events depicted in the movie “Captain Phillips” is highly inaccurate. These inaccuracies have caused the court of public opinion to cast judgment on what actually happened based on what they saw portrayed in the movie. The following are six misconceptions from the movie: First of all, the lawsuit filed by the crewmembers is not a publicity stunt tied to the release of the film. The lawsuit was filed in 2009, nearly three years prior to the conception of “Captain Phillips.” The defendants deliberately chose to not settle the lawsuit quickly, likely knowing the release of the film could benefit their case. Secondly, the real Captain Phillips is not the hero portrayed so well by Tom Hanks in the movie. The facts surrounding the event, as told by crewmembers and witnesses, along with the communications between the Captain and Maersk, reveal that Captain Phillips knowingly placed the lives of his crew in danger by sailing into dangerous waters in an effort to save time and money. Thirdly, the crew was not “lazy.”It was composed by experienced seamen who were not provided with adequate security or means for defending themselves against pirate attacks, despite their employer sending them – unarmed – into some of the most dangerous waters in the world. The crew fought back valiantly against pirates who were armed with automatic weapons, using primitive tools, such as pieces of pipe. Fourthly, the Maersk Alabama pirate attack was not the result of an unlucky or unpredictable event. Captain Phillips and Maersk received multiple daily reports of pirate attacks in the area and warnings to stay more than 600 miles from the coast. Instead, Captain Phillips chose to sail as close to 250 miles from shore, and the ship was within three hundred miles off shore when the ship was attacked. There had been attempted attacks on vessels in the same area as the Maersk Alabama the week before the April 2009 hijacking. Also, there have been several attempted attacks on the Maersk Alabama since 2009 in the same region, all of which clearly show how dangerous the area was. Fifthly, the “heroic” actions by Captain Phillips described in the movie resulted in the need for a rescue by the U.S. Navy. This rescue would never have taken place if Captain Phillips had heeded the warnings he received and sailed in safer waters. Sixthly, since the attack, Maersk Lines Limited didn’t settle the lawsuit brought by nine of the crewmembers but paid them a confidential amount in 2014, in order to not go to trial. Maersk, Captain Phillips and their lawyers fought to keep the facts about what really happened aboard Maersk Alabama confidential. “The investigative work regarding the trial has brought to light many facts which reveal the inaccuracies of the Phillips and Hollywood versions of events. Although we cannot speak to what really happened, we can say that the company was playing Russian roulette with its employees,” said Brian Beckcom. He added too that. “When we filed our lawsuit in 2009, one of our central claims was that the shipping company, knowing exactly where they were sending their crew, should have provided the crew with adequate security for when they traveled through some of the most dangerous waters in the world. Among other things, we claim in our lawsuit that the ship should have had armed guards. The shipping company and others in the industry claimed at that time that arming commercial ships would make piracy events more dangerous, not less”. Has anything been done to make things safer for crews on ships navigating pirate-infested waters since 2009 ? In addition to amping up the security on vessels traveling in pirate-infested waters, countries have formed coalitions of vessels that patrolled the Indian Ocean, deterring and preventing pirate attacks. By 2013, the rate of successful pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean had dropped to zero and and over 1,000 pirates had been captured prosecuted by authorities in over 21 countries. The lead pirate from the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking, Muse, had been captured alive by the U.S. Navy and was sentenced to 33 years in jail in the United States for his crimes. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
April 21, 2021News / PiracyMDAT-GoGVoluntary Reporting Area (VRA) While the world’s attention was diverted by COVID-19, piracy and armed attacks against ship crews remain a serious problem, requiring a concerted response from the international community at the highest level. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), 135 maritime kidnappings were recorded in 2020 – and 130 of them took place in the Gulf of Guinea. This maritime zone is more dangerous than the Somali coast and the European Union (EU) wants to do something about it. The merchant vessel « Mozart » was one of these ships attacked by pirates, while she was sailing 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) off the coast of Nigeria in January 2021. Several medias published reports of the dramatic scene which happened onboard. During the attack, the ship’s crew reached the safe room (Citadel) fearing for their lives while the pirates boarded. After six hours they succeeded to open the gate to the so-called Citadel. They killed one crew member and kidnapped 15. The crew-members have since been released, but it is still unclear whether a ransom was paid or not. “We are seeing that pirates operate with greater impunity,” IMB director Michael Howlett told to the German newspaper Deutsch Welle (DW). “They spend more time on ships. In one case, they were on a ship for more than 24 hours, without any dispute.” Previously, many of these attacks were primarily motivated by the intent to steal goods. However, more and more seafarers are regularly kidnapped and taken to Nigeria where they are held for ransom in horrible conditions. Different types of vessels are targeted, including container and bulk carriers, as well as tankers and offshore support vessels. The Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade – Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GOG) has been created by French Navy and Royal Navy to establish and monitor a Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) system where all merchant vessels are encouraged to declare position information when they are operating in this area. In January, EU heads of state and government took another step forward with collaborative initiative among military vessels sailing in the Gulf of Guinea in order to communicate patrol responsibilities and exchange information on pirate activities. Nevertheless, Kamal-Deen Ali executive director of the Center for Maritime Law and Security in Africa in Accra does not think this is a long-term solution. He asks for more trainee program to African neighbour states in order to develop efficient local navy officers and material such as radar systems. The Ghanaian executive director reported that most of the pirates came from the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, a very poor region where the drill of vast oil reserves contaminated local land and water. Because the two most important economic sectors of the region- fishing and agriculture – were destroyed, many people looked for other sources of incomes, which helped criminal gangs to recruit new pirates. Admiral Kamal-Deen Ali concluded that if it doesn’t change, attacks could increase despite the EU’s best efforts. Like this:Like Loading... [...]
April 15, 2021News / PiracyMiddle-East map background with United Kingdom flag/Source MTC How Iran fooled the British: The Iranian tanker, arrested in July 2019 in Gibraltar for violating sanctions against Syria and Iran, landed safe sound back in Iran landed safe and sound back in Iran. The British Foreign Office qualified as “Deeply troubling” the satellite images taken in September 2019, showing the tanker “Adrian Darya-1” flying the Iranian flag, now renamed as Grace 1, anchored off Tartus’s port in Syria. London raised its voices days later, accusing Iran of “breaking its assurances and calling the delivery of oil to the murderous el-Assad regime”. In a press release, the British Ministry qualified this act as an “unacceptable violation of international standards”. The transporter’s journey began on July the 4th off Gibraltar. British Navy commandos boarded the Iranian tanker, flying the Panamanian flag and carrying 2.1 million barrels of crude oil. The tanker was suspected by British authorities of transporting the cargo to Syria, thus violating the EU sanctions against Bashar el-Assad’s regime. Two weeks later, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized in the Strait of Hormuz, “the Stena Impero”, a Tanker flying the British flag. The vessel was transported to the port in Bandar Abbas, where the authorities indicated that an investigation was under way following the tanker’s collision with a fishing vessel. The Iranian authorities pledged the law, stating that “According to law, after an accident, it was necessary to investigate the causes”. They denied any link between this case and the seizure by the UK of the Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar. British diplomat Jeremy Hunt qualified this act as “unacceptable” and considered the boarding to be “worrying signs that Iran might choose a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior”. France and Germany supported the British position and called on Iran to release the British vessel “without delay”. A Diplomatic-legal negotiation was committed on the 15th, August; Gibraltar’s Supreme Court allowed the Iranian tanker to leave after Tehran assured the cargo would not be delivered to Syria. Adrian Darya-1, now renamed Grace 1, was released the next day. At the same time, Gibraltar’s authorities refused to maintain the seizure of the ship as demanded by Washington. The latter then contacted the Indian master of the ship and offered him a substantial amount of money so that he would not sail to Syria but in a route where the US could seize the tanker. On 26 August 2019, Iran claimed to have sold 2.1 million barrels of oil, valued at 125 million euros, stored on board of a ship, without specifying who the buyer was or whether the sale was concluded before or after the seizure of the tanker. The Adrian Darya 1 was sailing in the Mediterranean sea with no known destination, when the specialized website “Marine Traffic” reported on 30th August 2019 that tanker was located in the north-west of Cyprus and heading for the port of Iskenderun in Turkey. The Turkish Foreign Minister replied that the “tanker was not actually on its way to Iskenderun, but to Lebanon” and that “Lebanon was not necessarily the ship’s final destination”. Nada Boustani, the Lebanese Energy Minister, assured that her country had not received any request for the ship to be anchored off its coast. The minister added on Twitter that “The Ministry of Energy doesn’t buy crude oil from anyone. Lebanon does not have a refinery for crude oil”. While everyone was shifting the blame of the ship’s seizure on others, a Russian official announced on 6th September 2019 from Teheran, that 7 of the 23 sailors from the British tanker who boarded in July had been released by the Iranian authorities and had arrived in Dubai. Two days later, satellite photos of Adrian Darya 1 off the Syrian port of Tartus were broadcasted by Maxar Technologies Inc. Conflicting information was circulating about the unloading of the tanker’s contents days later. British intelligence’s sources assured that barrels of oil had been unloaded on small boats that could be shipped to Syria. Meanwhile, the specialized website TankerTrackers.com continued to claim, based on satellite images, that the tanker off Tartus still contained all of its cargo. A statement from Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization said the ship had been released “despite there being an open court case” against it. The release comes amid high tensions in the region. There have been a series of confrontations over tankers in the Gulf, as well as a recent attack on Saudi Arabia have blamed on Tehran. Tensions between the US and Iran have been escalating, following former President Trump’s rejection of a deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear activities. Like this:Like Loading... [...]