Protection Vessels International: Weekly Maritime Security Report

Indonesia is currently discussing with the International Maritime Organisation the rules for deployment of naval and coast guard vessels to escort small vessels delivering traded goods between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, after a series of hijackings in the Sulu and Celebes seas by Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) pirates. Jakarta will also coordinate with ship-owners and coal mining associations to urge vessels to take safe routes away from areas known to have a large pirate presence.

PVI Analysis: ASG has kidnapped tens of Indonesian and Malaysian seamen from small vessels since March in a bid to raise funds through ransom. The hijackings have damaged Indonesia's exports of coal to the Philippines, 15 percent of which is transported on slow-moving barges and tug-boats. In April, Banjarmasin and Tarakan Ports suspended coal shipments to the Philippines.

West Africa

Congo: Robber steals ship's property at Pointe Noire Anchorage 17 July

A robber armed with a knife boarded an anchored pipe laying barge at 0245 hrs local time at Pointe Noire Anchorage. Duty crew raised the alarm upon sighting the robber, causing the assailant to flee with the ship's stores.

PVI Analysis: Opportunistic robberies are often carried out overnight at anchorages when assailants are less likely to be sighted. Robberies are sporadically reported at Pointe Noire anchorage, with many similar thefts thought to go unreported.

Sao Tome and Principe: Suspicious boat approaches merchant vessel 16 July

A merchant vessel reported that it was approached by a boat at 0430 hrs local time, 30 nm southwest of the coast.

PVI Analysis: The report contained very few details of the type of boat and the speed of the approach, making it difficult to ascertain the vessel's intentions. The Gulf of Guinea has seen a spate of kidnap for ransom attacks targeting commercial vessels since January 2016.

Select Maritime News

Brazil: Santos port fire disrupts Rumo terminal operations 14 July

A fire which broke out at 0400 hrs local time at Santos port disrupted operations at the Rumo sugar terminal, leading to a 4 percent increase in international sugar prices. Williams shipping service said the fire started at a conveyor belt used for receiving cargo at Rumo terminal. No one was injured and the blaze was brought under control after one hour.

Canada: Government admits to illegally issuing work permits to foreign crew 14 July

The Canadian government has stated that it illegally issued work permits to 11 foreign crew members on board a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker in July 2015. The admission came after the Seafarers' International Union of Canada filed 42 lawsuits against the government, accusing it of systematically issuing work permits to foreign crew despite the availability of Canadian seafarers, breaching immigration laws. The 11 work permits will now be subject to judicial review.

Chile: Turbulent seas delayed copper exports in June 14 July

Choppy seas off the coast of Chile caused widespread delays to copper shipments in the second half of June. Cargoes were stranded and delayed at ports as storms prevented ships from loading. The decline in exports from Chile, which is the world's top copper producer, could potentially support prices in a market struggling to cope with oversupply.

China: Admiral warns freedom of navigation exercises could end in "disaster" 18 July

Admiral Sun Jianguo, the Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of the powerful Central Military Commission, has warned that freedom of navigation operations carried out by the US and Japan in the South China Sea could end in "disaster". He was speaking at a closed door forum in Beijing. China has refused to recognise or accept the ruling by The Hague on 12 July which dismissed China's claims to the South China Sea as ill-founded. The US Navy in particular has come to the aid of claimants the Philippines and Vietnam, carrying out numerous freedom of navigation operations which have led to heightened tensions with the Chinese military.

China: Beijing flies bomber over disputed Scarborough Shoal 18 July

A People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force nuclear-capable bomber flew over the disputed Scarborough Shoal days after a court in The Hague ruled against China's controversial claims to the South China Sea. The H-6K bomber flew over the shoal, as revealed in photographs by China's State Council Information Office, two days after China also tested its two newly built air strips on the shoal, part of the country's reclamation and construction activities on islands claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. There has been no comment as yet from Manila or Beijing.

China: Beijing to begin three-day South China Sea military drill on 19 July 18 July

China will conduct three days of military drills in the South China Sea beginning on 19 July, according to the Maritime Safety Agency. The navy will reportedly close maritime access to the area where the drills are being held, off the east coast of Hainan island. The drill comes amid heightened tensions with the US, the Philippines and Vietnam over The Hague's ruling that China's claims to the South China Sea are ill-founded. Beijing has refused to recognise or accept the ruling.

China: State media claims Beijing may build nuclear plants in South China Sea 15 July

State-run media company Global Times claimed that the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is planning on building marine nuclear power platforms in the disputed South China Sea, days after a court in The Hague ruled that China's claims to the sea are ill-founded. According to quotes from the CNNC, the nuclear power platforms would be used to "ensure fresh water" for Chinese troops, though the article did not specify if this meant the electricity would power a desalination plant. The article was deleted from CNNC's social media accounts after it was published and a CNNC staffer told AFP that the article's accuracy needed to be confirmed.

China: Forwarder warns G20 summit will disrupt Hangzhou's cargo flows in September 14 July

UK freight and supply chain manager Ligentia has warned that the G20 summit in Hangzhou on 4-5 September will disrupt import and export cargo flows due to planned control measures. The measures include closing chemical factories in the JinshanZone in Shanghai, reducing port power, closing polluting factories, banning high-polluting vehicles and restricting traffic access.

China: Beijing affirms intention to establish South China Sea air defence zone 13 July

Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin has said China has the right to set up an air defence zone in the South China Sea, over which it maintains its sovereignty claim despite a ruling against Beijing by The Hague on 12 July. Liu said the air defence zone would be established if China's security is threatened, amid heightened tensions with the US and the Philippines over its island-building activities. China's naval presence and construction activities in the Paracels, the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal create a triangle of control which would be the likely site for the air defence zone. It remains unclear how the US and the Philippines will respond to the plans.

Indonesia: Coal miners protest possible ban on Philippines trade 16 July

Indonesian coal mining association (ABKI) called on the government not to suspend exports of the commodity to the Philippines following a wave of attacks by armed groups on vessels. Since March, 24 Indonesian sailors have been kidnapped, 10 of whom remain in the custody of armed groups in the southern Philippines. Indonesia has threatened to halt coal exports, most of which are shipped via the Sulu Sea, if the Philippines fails to increase security and prevent future pirate attacks.

Indonesia: Jakarta to speed up development of Natuna islands amid sovereignty dispute 14 July

Indonesian Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli has announced that authorities will speed up the development of the Natuna islands in the South China Sea in order to strengthen its jurisdictional claims, after clashes with Chinese vessels near the islands since May. Rizal said the development programme aims to establish Natuna as the second biggest fishing market in the world after Tokyo through a deployment of 400 fishing vessels to the area. Other developments will include tourism and oil and gas. The announcement comes the day after President Joko Widodo ordered the deployment of warships and aircraft to the Natuna islands, and announced his plans to build ports and a runway on the main Natuna Island.

Indonesia: Authorities to boost security around Natuna Islands after South China Sea ruling 13 July

Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has said Indonesia will bolster defences around the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea after the ruling against China by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on 12 July. The planned boost in security comes after an upsurge in clashes between Chinese and Indonesian vessels near the islands, introducing a new front to China's multi-faceted maritime disputes which since 2013 have focused on Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. Indonesia plans to deploy warships, a F-16 fighter jet, surface-to-air missiles and unmanned aircraft to the islands, as well as constructing an airstrip and new ports in the coming year. China has rejected The Hague's ruling and is set to maintain or even intensify its naval activities in the South China Sea.

Indonesia: Jakarta begins legal proceedings against 27 ships for crimes 13 July

The Maritime Security Board (Bakamla) has launched legal proceedings against 27 boats which engaged in crimes between January and June 2016, including illegal fishing, logging, drug trafficking, the smuggling of other contraband such as cigarettes and fuel, as well as undocumented sailing. Bakamla chief Brigadier General Arifin said the 27 boats were seized during the first half of 2016, though specific locations for the seizures were not provided.

Libya: Telecoms company begins repairs on marine cable landing at Derna 18 July

The Libyan International Telecoms Company (LITC) has announced it is starting repair works on the marine cable landing point in the eastern city of Derna, after it was damaged during clashes between rival militia forces in October 2013. The marine cable is the first international telecoms link for the eastern region stretching across the Mediterranean to Greece's Crete. It has a capacity of 70 GB per second which can be expanded to 1.2 TB per second, according to LITC.

Libya: PFG close Hariga terminal over unpaid salaries 17 July

Local media site Libya Herald said that members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) closed the Hariga terminal in Tobruk to protest against unpaid salaries. The port closure left one vessel waiting to take on oil and another waiting offshore. The workers said that they have not received salaries in five months. There were no immediate signs of negotiations with the workers. Libya has suffered from a major liquidity crisis in recent months amid an ongoing dispute over control of the Central Bank's assets.

Mexico: Navy seizes 900 kg of cocaine near Puerto Arista 13 July

The Mexican navy said it recovered some 900 kg of cocaine found floating off the country's southern Pacific coast. A total of 33 plastic-wrapped bales of cocaine were detected 165 nm southeast of Puerto Arista, Chiapas, and had allegedly been left for subsequent retrieval by Mexican drug traffickers. The consignment was discovered as a result of routine monitoring and interdiction efforts along the coast.

Peru: Seven missing in boat explosion in Iquitos 16 July

Seven people are missing and 13 have been injured after two explosions caused a tourist boat to sink near Iquitos in the Amazon. The cruise boat, owned by Aqua Expeditions, ran out of fuel before two explosions caused a hole in the vessel's hull. The seven people missing are presumed to have been trapped on the sinking boat. Authorities said they were working to contain the oil split during the accident.

Peru: Gunmen rob tourists on Amazon cruise 14 July

Eight masked gunmen in two speedboats robbed tourists on a luxury riverboat cruise, Amazon Discovery, on the Amazon River. The riverboat had left the city of Iquitos on 13 July with around 30 tourists on board. When the boat anchored in the middle of the river for one stop, the gunmen boarded it and stole goods worth around USD 20,000. They also beat the captain with a pistol while crew were prevented from activating the distress button. None of the tourists were hurt, and police arrived soon after the incident and evacuated the travellers to a safe location.

Philippines: Beijing blocks Filipino vessels in Scarborough Shoal 15 July

Chinese coast guard vessels prevented Filipino boats from fishing around the contested Scarborough Shoal 230 km northwest of the Philippines mainland. The dispute over the shoal was one of the primary motivations in Manila's recent legal challenge against Beijing. Although the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled on 12 July against China's claims to vast areas of the South China Sea, Beijing has said it would ignore the ruling.

South Korea: Tens of thousands of auto, shipbuilding workers to strike on 19-22 July 18 July

Tens of thousands of workers for automotive and shipbuilding conglomerates are set to hold four-hour strikes every day from 19 to 22 July to protest over pay. About 75 percent of Hyundai Motor's 48,800 workers will participate after months-long negotiations failed to meet their demands for a 7.2 percent pay rise. Some 60 percent of 15,000 unionised workers at Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's largest shipbuilder by sales, will also strike to demand better wage rises and bonuses and protest lay-offs. Hyundai Heavy Industries has been forced into thousands of redundancies in recent years due to the country's restructuring of the shipbuilding industry, causing two years of losses for the firm totalling USD 4.4 bn.

Taiwan: Taipei vows to protect interests in South China Sea 13 July

President Tsai Ing-wen has vowed to defend Taiwan's sovereignty over Taiping Island in the South China Sea, the day after The Hague ruled against China's claims in the sea on 12 July. Taiwan also affirmed that the ruling did not apply to Taiwan, referring to the persistent claims by Beijing that Taiwan belongs to the mainland. Taiping Island is the largest feature in the Spratlys, which are claimed by China and the Philippines, and has been occupied by Taiwanese forces since 1956. There is also disagreement over Taiping being considered an island or a rock, which changes the feature's entitlement to an exclusive economic zone. President Tsai dispatched a navy frigate to the island following the ruling.

Turkey: Flights, shipping return to normal post-coup attempt 16 July

Turkey began to gradually restore normal operations at land, sea and air crossings following a failed military coup. Flights at Istanbul's international airport resumed after a nearly 24-hour halt, though most foreign carriers refused to fly to either Istanbul or Ankara following heavy fighting in both cities over late 15 and early 16 July. Maritime authorities reopened Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait to transiting tankers after shutting it for several hours, while the land border with Bulgaria was also reopened after a temporary closure.

Turkey: Bosphorus Strait temporarily shuts to tankers 16 July

Turkish Maritime authorities shut Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait to tankers for security purposes following an attempted coup by a faction of the armed forces. Some bulk cargo carriers were still being allowed to pass through the important maritime channel dividing Istanbul.

Turkey: Authorities seize 3.3 mn packs of smuggled cigarettes on Bosphorus 14 July

Authorities confiscated 3.3 mn packs of smuggled cigarettes from a Ukraine-flagged cargo vessel which was passing through the Bosphorus Strait. The cigarettes were worth around USD 9.9 mn. The vessel was en route to Skadovsk Port in Ukraine from the Turkish Cypriot port of Famagusta when it was stopped by authorities acting upon intelligence regarding the smuggled consignment. Six people on board the vessel were detained.

United Kingdom: Unions vote for North Sea strike action 14 July

Unite and RMT union members voted with a significant majority in support of industrial action over pay and conditions. Such action would likely affect up to seven of Royal Dutch Shell's platforms in the Brent oilfield. The vote was in reaction to allegations that Shell was hiring employees as part of a contingency plan to prevent disruption to their operations should strikes go ahead. If the strike takes place it would be the first offshore work stoppage since the 1990s.

United States: Unions, politicians oppose Port of Chicago privatisation proposals 14 July

The International Longshoreman's Association and local politicians are opposing plans for a private sector partnership with the Port of Chicago, stating the port will fare better under state control. The Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel has been looking to privatise the port since 2012, although previous attempts to do so have fallen through due to the port's history of poor oversight and inaccurate record keeping. The port's board held a closed meeting on 15 July to discuss the move in a bid to make the port profitable after years of financial losses.

Source: Hellenic Shipping News

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