Saturday, November 22, 2008

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 21 Nov 08)

The latest Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping Report (to 21 Nov 08) is up. Highlights:
1. ONI SPECIAL ADVISORY: SRI LANKA: Sri Lankan government troops captured the strategic northern town of Pooneryn on 15 Nov 08, the last remaining stronghold of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the island’s north-west coast. The fall of Pooneryn is considered a significant blow to the LTTE, which has held the town and surrounding areas since 1997. This capture by the Sri Lankan government further isolates the rebel forces from their sea supplies and constrains their territory. ONI Comment: When government forces have scored significant gains ashore in the past, LTTE has often counterattacked with terror tactics in ports in the Island's south and east, particularly at Trincomalee. All maritime interests are advised to maintain increased security vigilance in and near Sri Lanka waters (UPI, ONI).

2. SOMALIA/UN: The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to impose sanctions on pirates, arms smugglers, and perpetrators of instability in Somalia in a fresh attempt to help end years of lawlessness in the Horn of Africa nation, 20 Nov reporting. The 15-nation council endorsed a British plan for a council panel to recommend people and entities whose financial assets would be frozen and who would face a travel ban. It also reaffirms an arms embargo. Enforcing the sanctions poses steep challenges, however, as those responsible for much of the anarchy plaguing the country are well outside any traditional finance system. The council action was followed by discussion on the deteriorating situation in Somalia - both on land and at sea, which includes some of the world's most important shipping routes. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Raisuddin Zenenga said the multinational effort being mobilized to fight the pirates off Somalia - involving the European Union, NATO countries, Russia, India and others - should be replicated to mobilize an international force to tackle the security problems in Somalia itself. U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo called for immediate steps to stabilize the deteriorating security situation, which threatens political progress and an Oct. 26 cease-fire agreement between the Somali government and the insurgents. She stressed that piracy is "a direct result of the lack of rule of law and desperate economic conditions on the ground." DiCarlo urged the international community strengthen the beleaguered 3,450-strong African Union force in Somalia to protect food shipments. The African Union also urged the U.N. to quickly send peacekeepers to Somalia (AP).

3. GULF OF ADEN: An Indian navy frigate battled with, and sank a vessel described as a pirate mother ship in the Gulf of Aden, per 18 Nov reporting. Amid a surge of piracy around the hijacking-plagued Horn of Africa, the Indian navy said in a statement that fire from its (INS TABAR) set the pirate vessel aflame after it failed to stop for investigation. The Indian navy statement said that before the Tuesday night battle, the crew of the renegade vessel could be seen on board with a full complement of modern weapons and tools -- satellite phones, night-vision goggles, AK-47 assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The ship was spotted while the (TABAR) was patrolling 285 nautical miles southwest of the coast of Oman on Tuesday evening. The (TABAR) crew demanded that the vessel stop. But the pirate ship responded by threatening to "blow up the naval warship if it closed on her," the navy statement said. The pirates then fired on the (TABAR), and the Indian crew responded. Some of the pirates tried to escape on two speedboats that the larger vessel had in tow. One boat was later found abandoned, while the second escaped (Washington Post Foreign Service).

4. GULF OF ADEN: British Royal Navy commandos gave chase to suspected pirates off the coast of Yemen, killing two of them in an ensuing gunfight, 11 Nov 08. The (HMS CUMBERLAND) was on a routine patrol in the Gulf of Aden when it spotted a Yemeni registered fishing boat, positively identified in a hijacking attempt on a Danish cargo ship, (MV POWERFUL) earlier in the day, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defense. After “non forcible methods” to stop the dhow failed, the Royal Navy launched small assault craft to encircle the vessel. The pirates opened fire and the Navy fired back in self defense, according to the MoD statement. Two foreign nationals, believed to be Somali, were shot and killed. A Yemeni was found injured and later died. It wasn’t clear whether his injuries were due to the gunfight or to a previous incident. After the gunfight, members of the British frigate boarded the dhow, whose crew “subsequently surrendered and a compliant boarding followed,” according to the MoD. The boarding was conducted in accordance with UK rules of engagement. The confrontation took place approximately 50NM south of the Yemeni coast (Bloomberg, Times Online).

6. GULF OF ADEN: The European Union (EU) has initiated a “Close Support Protection”system for vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden per 31 Oct 08 reporting. The French navy will be the first to offer this service. The French Navy is able to provide protection teams onboard two merchant vessels at a time. Only two vessels will have the protection teams onboard upon request. The rest of the ships intending to follow this “group of protected vessels” can do so without the protection teams onboard. The presence of the warships will deter pirates from attacking any vessels in the group. Vessels can also call the nearby warships for assistance when attacked by pirates. In the next three months, the following slots are proposed: Point A (SW of the Gulf of Aden): 12°30N-045°00E; Point B (North of Socotra Island): 14°40N-053°00E. From A to B: 28 - 29 October, 21 - 22 November, 25 - 26 November, 4 - 5 December, 22 - 23 December. From B to A: 30 - 31 October, 23 - 24 November, 27 - 28 November, 6 - 7 December, 24 - 25 December. All rendezvous are on first day of slot at 0800 LT (A: GMT + 3, B: GMT + 4). Average speed is 14 knots. Technical agreement between ship-owners and French navy has to be established prior to the protection team being embarked. Civilian vessels willing to benefit from such escorts have to make contact 10 days before slot.*** Please note: last minute changes may arise. Ships have the option to follow the “group of protected vessels” by French navy or transit via the established maritime security patrol area in the Gulf of Aden. Masters using the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) and those following the ‘group of protected vessels’ are not relieved of their obligation and should continue to maintain a strict 24 hour lookout using all available means to get early warnings of an approaching threat. Some vessels have been attacked/hijacked in the corridor (IMB).
2. VENEZUELA: Sailboat (CHILL) boarded, captain killed 9 Nov 2008 at 1730 local time while anchored at position 10:17N – 064:45W at Isla Borracha. Three men onboard a small fishing piƱero approached the sailboat asking for water. When the captain came back up from below with water, they shot him in the chest. Another couple from a sailboat anchored with the (CHILL) was also onboard and the robbers shot a second man as well. The second manreportedly shot at the robbers with a shotgun, killing one and injuring another. The captain died while the second man is recovering at a hospital, according to officials. One suspect has been detained in the nearby town of Arapito, but has yet to be formally charged (AP, Noonsite). ***

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