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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 19 Feb 09)

The latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 19 Feb 09) is available here. Highlights:
6.  ONI SPECIAL ADVISORY:  A suspicious skiff was reported in location 13:52N –
050:12E at 0636 UTC on 27 Jan 09, approximately 75 NM southeast of Al Mukalla, Yemen. The
suspicious skiff was described as a blue hull speed boat, 10 meters in length with five to six
people onboard, heading 358 degrees with a speed of 14 knots. The sighting was reported to a
naval warship in the area, which proceeded to investigate the skiff. The warship reported having
seized five pirates and their ammunition and weapons. Another speed boat was also sighted in
the area. ONI Comment: Somali pirates have recently released multiple vessels after receiving
ransom payments. Past reporting suggests efforts to hijack additional vessels increase as
previously hijacked vessels are released. Past reporting also suggests efforts to hijack vessels
increase as wind speeds decrease. Over the next 48 hours, wave heights are only expected to
reach 1 ft., with wind speeds averaging 10 kts, which is very condusive to piracy operations.
Pirates appear to be most active and successful when average wind speeds are between 0 to 10
knots. Activity is also reported when winds are between 10 to 15 knots but pirates appear to be
less successful under these conditions. Little to no incidents are reported when winds average
between 15 to 20+ knots. This time of year, when prevailing monsoon winds are out of the
Northeast, wind speeds are lower and more conducive to piracy operations closer to the Yemeni
coast and less favorable in the central Gulf of Aden.
1. NIGERIA: Tanker fired upon 10 Feb 09 at 1905 local time while underway in position
03:59N – 005:47E, southeast of Pennington terminal. Ten heavily armed pirates in a speed boat
approached and attempted to stop a tanker underway. The pirates opened fire at the vessel. The
alarm was raised and crew alerted. The master took evasive maneuvers and prevented boarding.
The pirates continued firing at the vessel and attempted to board but failed due to effective
preventive measures. Later, the pirates aborted their attempt (IMB).
2. NIGERIA: Tanker attacked, robbed 14 Feb 09 at 2130 UTC while at Lagos anchorage.
Around 12 to 14 robbers wearing masks and armed with AK-47s boarded the vessel at anchor.
They took a crewmember hostage and forced him to guide them to the bridge. They opened fire
and destroyed the ship’s communication system and then stole ship’s stores and personal
belongings before departing after 30 to 40 minutes. No crewmembers were injured (IMB).
3. NIGERIA: Vessel attacked, captain killed 5 Feb 09 at 0200 UTC while operating in an
oilfield off the coast of southern Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom state. Two private security groups
working in the sector said a gang in two boats attacked the vessel. The captain of the vessel was
killed and one other crewmember was injured, according to sources (AP, Reuters).
4. NIGERIA: Tanker (MEREDITH) attacked 21 Jan 09, early morning while underway in
the Bonny Fairway Buoy in the Niger Delta. Heavily armed assailants riding in four speedboats
hit the tanker with dynamite at around dawn as it was in transit to Port Harcourt with
approximately 4,000 tons of diesel fuel. A Romanian crewmember was taken hostage but later
released according to Nigerian military officials. An official said the unidentified gunmen
inflicted “massive” damage on the tanker’s engine and superstructure. The militant group MEND
later claimed its affiliates had carried out the attack (UPI, Reuters, AP).
5. CAMEROON: Fishing vessels attacked, skipper killed 24 Jan 09 while operating just off
the port of Douala near Kribi. According to reports some 30 armed men used three small craft to
board and seize a fishing vessel. They attempted to take it into international waters but a second
fishing vessel gave chase. The skipper of the second vessel was shot dead. The gang then robbed
the crews of both ships and abandoned them, escaping from the scene in their small craft. The
Cameroonian navy is reported to have rescued the 40 surviving fishing vessels crew members
(Maritime Global Net).
1. RUSSIA: Vessel (NEW STAR) fired upon 14 Feb 09 while underway off the coast of
Vladivostok. The Chinese cargo vessel was being detained at the Russian port of Nakhodka after
being suspected of smuggling. The vessel left the port without permission, and after failing to
stop after warnings were given, a Russian warship fired on the vessel, eventually sinking it.
Three Chinese sailors were rescued, while seven others were still missing (Reuters, AP).
UPDATE: The BBC reports that piracy is "spreading" to West Africa. As readers of this blog know, piracy has been an issue off Nigeria and other West African countries (mostly in the Gulf of Guinea) for some time. Much of it is of the minor board and steal type with a few exceptional kidnapping ransom cases by paramilitary guerrilla forces. It is not new and has been a focus of U.S. Africa Station efforts.

UPDATE2: More on that Russian Coast Guard sinking of an alleged "Chinese" smuggling ship. As noted here, these matters get confusing:
A Russian news agency said Russian Coast Guard vessels had opened fire after the cargo ship ignored warnings to return to port. Russian officials say five Indonesian and three Chinese sailors drowned after their Sierra Leone-flagged ship began to sink in heavy weather.
Gotta love those flags of convenience.

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